General Motors Death Watch Pt. 15: Branded!

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

OK, so you want to save all eight remaining GM brands. Good for you! It sure would make a lot of people happy. So let's do it, starting with each GM division's USP. Each brand has to produce vehicles that do one thing better than anyone else in the world. No clones. No model overlap. Each vehicle must reflect, embody and personify its unique brand identity. If you look at a car, truck, SUV, minivan or crossover and know it's a GM product, we've failed.

Saab is a bit problematic. Smorgasboards up if you know what it means to be Swedish. In fact, Saab got into the car business through the aerospace industry. Well, even if they didn't, there's a connection there, somewhere. From now on, all Saab's are designed like jet fighters. We're talking electronics (heads-up display, night vision, headsets, military-style gauges, sat nav.), aerodynamics (world's lowest cd, active surfaces), aircraft construction (aluminum, carbon fiber, memory plastics) and ergonomics (cockpit seating, four point belts, maximum visibility). If you build it, it will fly.

Given Saturn's original image– the happy, shiny plastic panel people– let's make them the home of the hybrids. As an all-green division, Saturn would deflect critics of GM's gas-guzzlers. (Call it 'our test bed for new technologies' and keep forgetting to pass them 'round.) Saturn can build anything they want other than SUV's and trucks– as long as it's 100% recyclable, gets 40+mpg, wears lots of identifying badges and looks wacky.

Pontiac is easy. The "We Build Excitement" Division will build, wait for it, sports cars. Fun, fast and sexy sports cars. (Remember: no brand overlap. No hopped-up Chevy's or Caddy's.) The Solstice is a terrific start (if only in theory), but we need a whole line of Pontiac sports cars, from cheap and cheerful runabouts to pricey and dangerous death devices. Let's stay with two-door rear-wheel-drivers for a while, until the public "gets it". After that, if Porsche can build a four-door Panamerica, why not Pontiac?

The official Buick website doesn't bother to offer a brand identity. No worries; we all know that Buicks are God's waiting room on wheels. So let's go the whole hog and REALLY appeal to the elderly. Buicks will have wide-opening doors, huge, easy-to-read gauges; enormous buttons, collision avoidance systems, automatic-parking, prescription bottle holders, oxygen masks for the rear seat passengers, etc. The styling isn't all that important (the eyesight fades after a while), so let's appeal to their sense of nostalgia and simply rebuild famous Buick designs with new technology.

Hummer is fine. Just make sure that every one of their vehicles looks like a box that someone hit with an ugly stick and can kick-ass off road. By the same token, GMC is also in pretty good shape brand-wise. Only one BIG change: no one else in the GM family is allowed to build a truck or SUV. If consumers want a working man's macho flatbed or a Lexified luxury Ute, they go to GMC. And that's it.

Chevrolet is also a reasonable proposition, provided we stick to VFM. Mind you, Value For Money is a market niche susceptible to attacks from both below (Hyundai) and above (budget Bimmers). Thankfully, Chevy still knows how to build vehicles people can afford. Again, we strip-out the SUV's and trucks, but give Chevy all the crossovers. The 'Vette goes to Pontiac. Purists will howl louder than a Z51, but desperate times call for coherent brands.

That leaves Cadillac. It's a no-brainer really: the world's best luxury cars, bar none. (Again, again: no SUV's or trucks.) From now on, Cadillacs will be designed for their brand from the ground-up, paying strict attention to every detail, from platform choice to build quality to engine note to key fob. They'll be sold from dealerships that look and feel like a trendy Manhattan hotel. And Caddies will be horrendously expensive. If thirty-somethings desperately want a Cadillac, but can't possibly afford one, we're there.

And there you have it: eight re-invigorated warriors with enough high concept, tightly-focused branding to compete in today's niche-driven marketplace. If. however, you want to chop the deadwood, Saab would require the longest lead time, Saturn has the most expensive development costs and Buick has the worst demographics. But there's no middle ground: it's cut, adapt or die. When will it happen? In your dreams.

Robert Farago
Robert Farago

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  • Rando [h2]Coincidentally, the Rolls-Royce Cullinan is more than $41k as well -.-[/h2]
  • Ajla "Gee, wonder why car (as well as home) insurance rates are much higher in places like Florida..." Severe weather is on the list but even if a benevolent genie reverted the climate to circa 1724 I think FL would still have high cost. Our home insurance rates have increased 102% since 2021 and I don't think weather models account for that much of a change in that period. Florida's insurance assignment of benefit regulation meant that it had ~80% of the country's of the insurance lawsuits on ~12% of the nation's claims and litigated claims can be expensive to insurance companies. The state altered some regulations and is having some success on getting more companies back, even with the severe weather risks, through relatively bipartisan efforts. With car insurance just beyond the basic "Florida" stuff, the population increase of the past few years is overwhelming the roads. But, I think the biggest thing is we have very low mandated car insurance levels. Only $10K personal injury and $10K property damage. No injury liability needed. And 20% of the state has no insurance. So people that actually want insurance pay out the nose. Like I commented above my under/uninsured coverage alone is 2.5x my comprehensive & collision.
  • Juan Let's do an 1000 mile drive and see who gets there first.
  • Eliyahu CVT needed for MPG. Outback is indeed the legacy of, err, the Legacy.
  • Gayneu I can comment on these. My wife always thought the Minis were "cute" so I bought her a used 2005 (non-S, 5 speed) for one of her "special" birthdays. She loved it and I kinda did too. Somehow a hole developed in the transmission case and the fluid drained out, ruining the car (too expensive to fix). A local mechanic bought it for $800.We then bought a used 2015 S (6 speed) which we still have today (80k miles). Her sister just bought a used S as well (also manual). It has been a dependable car but BMW-priced maintenance and premium gas hurts for sure. I think the earlier generation (like in the article) were better looking with cleaner lines. The 2015 S rides too stiff for me (Chicago roads) but is a hoot on smooth ones. It does seem to shift weird - its hard to describe but it shifts differently from every other manual I have driven. No matter how hard I try, so won't let go of her Mini.