Robert Farago
by Robert Farago

A brand is a promise to a consumer. When a brand’s products fail to live up to the consumer’s expectations (i.e. the promise in THEIR mind), they are right never to trust it again. Why should a screwed customer give GM another chance? We’re not talking about sewing machines here. An automobile is the average consumer’s second most expensive purchase (after their house). They have every right—indeed an obligation to the people who depend on them—to err on the side of caution. To AVOID risking the money upon which their family relies. I repeat: if they’re satisfied with their current car company, they would do their family a disservice to put their money at risk.

Customers aren’t that stupid; they know New GM is Old GM is GM. If you need proof that New GM’s corporate culture hasn’t changed, clock the fact that your take on Henderson’s take on New GM’s challenge is the official GM position (i.e. “the perception gap”). Even worse, the head of The Presidential Task Force on Automobiles (PTFOA) parroted the meme on the occasion of New GM’s birth.

Seriously, check out CEO Henderson’s comments on GM dealer service. If you don’t like it, try someone else? Whatever planet Henderson lives on, it’s not revolving around its customers.

If someone says “your product/service sucks,” it’s up to the company behind the brand to go ABOVE AND BEYOND their consumer’s expectations to win back/win their patronage. Sweeping buyers’ problems under the rug (”this is not representational of our fine dealers”), calling the victim names (close-minded) or trying to ignore your past (New GM!) gets you precisely nowhere.

Sigh. What do you expect from ex-CEO Rick Wagoner’s hand-picked successor? Henderson keeps talking about GM going faster because he can’t even fathom the REAL problem: accountability. Both inside and outside GM.

By the same token, a car company that’s fulfilled a brand’s promise to its consumers, has every reason to expect ongoing consumer loyalty. Success breeds success.

Honda, Toyota and Nissan ascended to their current market share by keeping their promises to disaffected Big Three customers. And putting it right when they failed. Institutionally, they know their strengths. They have not and most probably will not make the same mistakes as GM has made. The thing of it is, that’s the only way GM’s going to recapture the lion’s share of the customers lost to Hyundissanota.

Saying that, there is another way out of hell. If New GM offers buyers an iron-clad guarantee against ANY financial loss, the formerly bankrupt car company might have a chance. A five-year, no conditions, no questions asked, bumper-to-bumper warranty would be . . . a start.

Providing, of course, GM honors its obligations. Which is exactly what they haven’t done hundreds of thousands of times. Given GM’s despicable past, there’s only one way New GM can get burned customers to believe that New GM isn’t Old GM at the dealer level: prove it. Over years.

At the same time, New GM has to win new customers. We’re talking about young, relatively poor car buyers whose brand loyalties are not yet fixed. Forget “the next big/little thing” (Cruze, Spark, whatever). Which carmaker sells the best entry-level whips? Even The General’s staunchest supporters wouldn’t suggest it’s GM.

Digressing slightly, Bob Lutz’s career was resurrected because someone at GM/the PTFOA figures Lutz brings glamor to the brand(s). That Maximum Bob creates cars that stir the soul. Products that will attract customers who think with their hearts rather than their heads (Solstice, SSR, G8, etc.). Which is just about the last thing New GM needs right now.

Look at the vehicles featured on New GM’s home page: Chevrolet Camaro, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS and hybrid GMC Yukon. Which of these can generate enough sales to keep New GM from following Old GM to a watery grave?

GM needs to produce a small range of class-leading vehicle for its Chevrolet brand. Period. As I’ve stated previously, Cadillac is a non-starter. Buick? What Buick? GMC? Nice volume, but a dead end. New GM needs to produce volume sellers that . . . sell. And make a profit.

To do that, they’re going to have to figure out what the Chevy brand stands for (reliability? value? style? durability? comfort?), make its products fulfill the brand promise better than anyone else on the planet, sell the SHIT out of it, and back up those products with the best sales and service known to mankind. No apologies. No excuses. All day. Every day.

Forget it. New GM doesn’t have the time to git ‘er done. In fact, they haven’t even started. Henderson promises that New GM’s 43 nameplates will all be class-leading. WTF? Does he actuallybelieve that? Does he expect his customers to believe it? Why? What’s different?

Our money is doomed. And it’s not the customer’s fault.

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2 of 47 comments
  • Fallout11 Fallout11 on Jul 14, 2009

    Allow me to present an example of the recent GM, as quoted from Forbes Magazine's "Most Overpriced Vehicles in North America" article- "The Canyon and its Chevrolet sibling, the Colorado, rated at the very bottom of the Owner Satisfaction scale for Consumer Reports, with only 40% of purchasers saying that they'd make the same purchase choice again." Residual market worth of a new Colorado after 1 year was a meager 63%. Ouch! Now that's world leading!

  • Tricky Dicky Tricky Dicky on Jul 17, 2009

    What I don't get in all of this is the liberty that writers and posters alike take, in trying to diss the various non-American owned/managed OEMs by collapsing their names. Fiatsco, Toyonda, Hyundissanota.... what a load of cr4p! If you need a collective name, why not try something like "Asian OEMs", or "non-American brands". "Foreign" is of course a relative term. "Foreign" and "non-American" are not interchangeable terms. BTW, having never experienced the legendary GM service or American products, I still find it hard to believe that such a big organisation can change it's culture just by shedding debt and a few hundred middle managers. Humility is a pre-requisite for such a change and I don't see any of it.

  • MrIcky I would like to compare the answers here against the answers in the recent civil forfeiture article- but I won't because research is hard. It's true though that currently a ticket has no punitive value on those with means and maybe an outsized punitive value on those without. That's not communism, that's just the way it is. Speeding tickets are too arbitrary anyway though: officer discretion, speed trap towns, excessively low speed zones in areas to increase ticket revenue instead of safety, etc. I could clearly see a case where expensive cars are selectively enforced over cheap cars because you only have so much time in a day to up the revenue. It's a gray rainy crap morning and I'm sure the government will do it wrong.
  • 28-Cars-Later Feels a bit high but then again... forget it Jake, its Clown World.In 2021 someone in Sewickley had an MY01 soft top in a manual with 54K otc which I am fairly certain was a 996 and not a Boxster - $20K. I already had my C70 at the shop being reborn and could have done the $20K but it would have been tight and just didn't make sense. Still...
  • SCE to AUX Q: Should Speeding Fines Be Based on Income?A: Yes. Rich people (the guy with $1 more than you) should pay less, because giving his income to the government means he has to lay off a worker at his business.Laws are for poor people./s
  • SCE to AUX "Volvo has suggested it’s capable of yielding 275 miles of range"Every non-US car's range estimate is based on WLTP - worth mentioning.EPA range never 'backs up' WLTP; it's always about 15% lower - so figure maybe 234 miles. Not great, except as a commuter.As for the interior - it's obviously a Model 3 clone, but the screen is substantially smaller. Incidentally, I suspect Tesla made the Model 3/Y interior so minimalist to save money - not just to be different. When you're trying to become profitable on EVs, every dollar counts.
  • SCE to AUX "there haven’t been a lot of good examples hitting the market recently. Most models are aimed at the affluent, resulting in 9,000-pound behemoths with six-figure price tags"I hope you were joking, because that is blatantly false.