By on October 15, 2007

x08st_sk001.jpgWe're happy that Washington Post car columnist Warren Brown is happy with the "new" GM. But methinks he protests too little. In his latest minimus opus, Brown begins by admitting that "it's too early for General Motors to declare 'mission accomplished'"– even though that expression has been considered ironic since GWB gave a post-Iraq invasion press conference on the U.S.S. Lincoln. Anyway, if that's not scary enough, Warren reveals there's a "discernible note of confidence in the voices of GM's top executives today" and "smiles on the faces of the company's designers, engineers, vehicle line executives, marketing and communications people." And that's because GM's "changed its culture from one of authoritarian control with little regard for consumers or rank-and-file employees to one in which car people — designers, engineers and marketers — have been empowered to go full blast in anticipating and meeting consumer needs and demands." Wow! On the tangible proof side, Brown lauds the new Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Saturn Sky, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave (Shhh! Don't tell Warren's readers that the last three are the same vehicle.) As for actual factual evidence of this turnaround, Warren cites the Sky "stealing sales from the iconic MX-5 Miata," GM's slight sales increase during the last two months and, uh, that's it. With a cheering section like this, who needs PR?

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18 Comments on “Warren Brown: GM Rocks!...”

  • avatar

    “On the tangible proof side, Brown lauds the new Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Saturn Sky, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Buick Enclave (Shhh! Don’t tell Warren’s readers that the last three are the same vehicle.)”

    I would not want to tell Warren’s readers that the Nissan Murano / Infinfit FX and Toyota Highlander / Lexus RX are the same vehicle either….why spoil the secret !

  • avatar
    Justin Berkowitz

    Errm, Murano and FX aren’t the same actually. Same V6 engine and transmission, but different platforms. The Murano’s a front wheel drive car based on the Altima platform. The FX is rear-wheel drive based and shares its underpinnings with the G35 and M35.

    On point, GM’s current lineup is the best it has been in 30+ years. Unfortunately, its best still isn’t good enough to stop the hemorrhaging. That’s what I find amazing.

  • avatar

    I used to live in DC, and read Brown on occasion, and, uh, lets just say that he’s not reliable. Either he is intellectually dishonest or his biases are so powerful that they warp his thinking. I’d suggest that his tenure at the Wash Post is an example of affirmative action amuck except that I gather there are many car columnists with equal lack of rigor at other newspapers. In one article he wrote for the Post Magazine some time in the last decade, he tried to make the case that American cars are better than Japanese cars. It was pathetic. One example of bad Japanese quality was an allusion to a recall due to a problem with a light, I think. No mention of JD Power or Consumer Reports at all.

    On the other hand, I attended a presentation the other night by the people working on the Volt, and they seemed to be a very impressive, dynamic, enthusiastic bunch. The head of the group claimed to have immediate access to higher ups, Lutz et al., and said his requests were met without any of the usual bureaucratic intervention. But that’s just one tiny corner of a huge company.

  • avatar

    After reading Warren Brown weekly in the Post (my local paper) for the past 7-8 years, I can’t recall the last time he wrote a terrible review. And he’s an unapologetic Detroit 2.801 fan, no doubt about it – getting grating these days. Remember Warren, Competitive does not equal Leader.

    Of course, we all know what happens when an auto writer writes a bad review: they either get GM’s (or dealers’) ads pulled from their paper for months, or they “aren’t allowed to review cars anymore” and have to start their own web site…

  • avatar

    GM does have some cause to be pleased – they have probably managed to execute the best turn-around plan of any of the domestic automakers and have the best product lineup in recent memory. However, its a little early to celebrate as it will take time and more improved products to get their customers back via conquest sales. They lost the confidence of the consumer gradually and that is also the expected pace at which they will get it back if they manage to continue to move in the right direction.

    And before they get too carried away with all their new products they will also need to put in some effort to clean up their dealer network – reduce numbers and get serious about improving the dismal buying and service experience.

  • avatar

    The lineup is indeed the best its been in -well- forever. Now GM is learning that the damage to its reputation is arguably harder to repair than the damage to its product portfolio. Patience, good marketing and the fortitude to stick with reliable product planning will help. Look at the Impala (and to a lesser extent, the Malibu) timely model upgrade schedules and solid product planning are creating solid sales in those respective brands.

  • avatar

    carguy: GM does have some cause to be pleased Pleased, perhaps. But Brown's painting a picture here of confidence that borders on giddy. GM would do well to remember that Toyota is NEVER confident. Never.

  • avatar

    Title of former Intel CEO Andrew Grove’s biography: Only The Paranoid Survive

    Preface has an interesting diagram of what Grove calls the inflection point: “where the old strategy dissolves and gives way to the new”.

  • avatar

    I don’t have the gauge of GM’s humility index, but we do know from past experiences with the Big 3 that whenever they publicly start patting themselves on the back for a job well done that we are due for another run of bad news and restructuring. Let’s hope they’ve finally learned that lesson too.

  • avatar

    The pickups and full-size SUVs are solid, the Lambda Triplets near best in class (at least until the new Pilot comes), the CTS is good, the G8 and Astra are world class but will probably loose money on each unit and the Malibu looks to be a nice mid-cycle make over of the uninspired G6/Aura, which should mean its competitive (but not better than) the Camry and yet WAY behind the new Accord. The current GM line up may be the best in-like-forever, but the majority still sucks. Does anyone buy a Pontiac or Buick car? How about the Cobalt?

  • avatar

    RF – agreed but maybe this confidence is “confidence in that GM will continue to exist” as opposed to the confidence (or stinking bravado) that we saw in the 90s when they thought they could do no wrong. Let’s hope this confidence is a modest recognition of initial progress rather than a “mission accomplished – where is my obscenely large bonus?” confidence.

  • avatar

    I saw that article reprinted in my local paper’s Friday syncophant Driving section. I wondered if it would show up here…

    I’ll agree with others and suggest that GM has some reasons to be pleased but if they allow themselves to be satisfied it will be game over. They have some solid cars on the ground and in the pipeline, but they still have a boatload of dreck in the product line, too many (and too many lousy) dealers and a plethora of confused brands. All these issues have been beaten to death here. If only GM would beat them to death!

  • avatar

    I always thought that newspaper automobile reviews were written by the PR flacks at the manufacturers. Until I read about Mr. Farago and his plight.

    But he just might have been the sole exception.

  • avatar

    As an ex GM dealer for 30 years, I say the propping up of weak brands will ultimately bring them down or into chapter something bankruptcy.Spreading the research $ to all the brands continues to keep all the products from being the best. And consequently it keeps the overbloated dealer body weak and not very profitable. But the real issue their hands are tied as far as killing brands and dealers.

  • avatar

    “As for actual factual evidence of this turnaround, Warren cites the Sky “stealing sales from the iconic MX-5 Miata,”

    Sure thing, BUB!
    The Miata OWNS this class, GM aint stealing anything from anybody. Somewhow I dont think Mazda is too worried…and I work in Mazda franchise with a Saturn dealership in our network.
    I guess he thinks the Malibu Maxx was “stealing” sales from the Mazda6, and the Cobalt was “stealing” sales from the Mazda3.
    Reality–what a concept! LOL

  • avatar
    Terry Parkhurst

    While I’ve read Warren Brown’s work, in syndication for years, something he wrote recently now makes me cast a jaundiced eye on anything he does. It was a review of the new Jaguar XK coupe.

    He said that it was nothing special, technically; and thought lesser cars had all the things that the XK came with and with better design. He took aim at the Jag’s navigation system, among other things.

    The fact that the new XK has a body made entirely from aluminum, using a bonding method that is similar to that used in airplane construction, was nowhere to be found in his review. Admittedly, he might have thought that too “over the heads” of the average newspaper reader. But to call the Jaguar XK’s technology comparable to a Toyota or Honda was inaccurate, in the extreme.

    Maybe Warren was just having a bad day when he wrote that piece. However, I lost a hat on the freeway, when I road-tested a 2007 Jaguar XK convertible, last summer, and still managed to look at that car as objectively as I could.

    So when Warren gushes over GM’s turn-around I, and many others, should take pause and consider the source – most especially when he doesn’t note that three vehicles are, in point of fact, variants of the same platform.

  • avatar

    “The lineup is indeed the best its been in -well- forever.”

    Hardly. The 1967 GM lineup was highly competitive in every category they played in. Now 40 years later the lineup is still a very, very mixed bag.

    Look at the 2007 Chevy cars for example (set aside the special case Corvette):
    Aveo, Cobalt, Malibu & Impala. No 2 door coupes, no station wagon, no convertibles, nothing interesting at all. Every one a rental grade vehicle except perhaps the Aveo which might not hold up to rental service.

    Then you have the Chevy Uplander trying to compete in the minivan market. A dud. Chevy has some competitive trucks, but also makes the unloved Colorado and Trailblazer.

    Calling the present GM lineup the best in it’s history shows a serious lack of historic perspective. Chevrolet is the heart of GM and it’s lineup is so far away from best in class status it isn’t funny.

  • avatar

    Not that it matters too much, but the Cobalt has a coupe,
    and a lot of people like the SS. I agree, it is all front-wheel drive sedans nowadays. Just look at the Toyota of today compared to 1992 (Pasao, MR2, Celica, Subra). Now they have the Solara (or is it gone already?)

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