By on June 30, 2010

According to BusinessWeek‘s David Welch, GM’s New York market share has slipped below ten percent for the first time, prompting The General to consider a 5th Avenue GM “salon” showcasing the company’s products. Now, the arguments against the idea are too easy: spending government money on some of the world’s most expensive real estate isn’t great PR-wise. Besides, isn’t GM trying to emphasize the individuality of its brands, and break down the monolithic image of GM as the all-seeing, all-rebadging automaker? Wouldn’t a GM “salon” go against the alleged independence of, say, Cadillac? On the other hand, GM does finally have some good products, and can’t afford further erosion in market share in America’s affluent coastal cities. Would it really hurt to showcase them in a prominent setting? It’s a debate that’s surely racking the RenCen at the moment, so why not weigh in before a decision is made. Is this a plain bad idea? Should a variation of the idea move forward, possibly highlighting individual brands in a more targeted manner? Or does GM need a world-class flagship retail outlet in order to manifest itself as a world-class automaker?

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35 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Does GM Need A Manhattan Flagship Salon?...”


  • avatar

    difficult times call for drastic measures. time for the secret weapon…

    http://images.wikia.com/muppet/images/9/96/Album.mtm.jpg

  • avatar
    thalter

    It will be hard for the “salon” to avoid the dealership stigma, even if it isn’t one. Most people won’t step foot into a dealership unless they are prepared to buy a car. And the only people who will set foot in a GM salon/dealership are those that were already interested in buying a GM car in the first place.

    Fail.

  • avatar
    relton

    If I thought they were selling new 1955 Cadillacs, I’d be there in a heartbeat.

    Bob

  • avatar

    Absolutely, they should put it right next to that hot Audi forum on Park Ave. near GCT.

  • avatar
    mdwheary

    Why not? They might as well waste as much taxpayer dollars as they can before they declare bankruptcy.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    Yes, but make it an actual salon. Offer manicures in seats out of the SRX or LaCrosse. Match hair dyes to the color of GM vehicles. Get your nails done with little checkered flags on them, and buy a matching scarf.

    The main issue will be one of target clientele: New Yorkers or their dogs?

    • 0 avatar
      Yuppie

      Don’t forget haircuts and frou-frou drinks, for a proper Manhattan salon.

      More serious suggestions: (1) Maybe solely a salon for its Cadillac brand? (2) I dare GM to put such salon in L.A., everyone knows the West Coast defines America’s car culture. (3) If GM does insist on a Manhattan presence, maybe it should just spend my tax dollars to operate a fleet of Escalades for some famous foreign dignitary between the UN, his consulate, JFK, and whatever hot spot he wants to go? See, e.g., Louis Vuitton pays Gorbachev to use its luggage.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    They already have one at 59th & 5th Avenue; they’re just not using it for that purpose right now. I remember going in there in the ’70’s and I think it was beneficial to them.

    I just got back from Paris and while strolling the Champs d’Elysee I noticed that all of the European marks, French and otherwise, had an outpost with a showroom there. They all had a lot of foot traffic streaming through in mid-afternoon.

    • 0 avatar
      daga

      Same thing along Hyde Park in London. It makes some sense in a high cost real estate place like NYC, but hopefully it will be Cadillacs and Corvettes, not the normal chev/buick/gmc offerings.

  • avatar
    Samuel L. Bronkowitz

    GM spent 30 to 40 years destroying their products and reputation… the expectation that they can significantly change their standing in the market in a short period of time is simply unrealistic. Just as someone may spend years getting out of shape and then think some miracle diet/exercise plan will make them look fit in a very short period of time.

    If there is some long term value to a salon, then why not? However, if the goal of the salon is to raise the numbers amongst New Yorkers over the next 24 months then it is an utter waste.

  • avatar

    What’s the competition doing? Any Honda/Nissan/Toyota/BMW/Mercedes showrooms in this area? Aren’t these showrooms in the center of a city a little outdated?

    • 0 avatar
      SherbornSean

      There are some very cool dealerships/salons in Manhattan, mostly upscale brands on Park Ave. BMW has a very cool one downtown to showcase their hottest products. I suspect it mostly is there to build brand, but once a year – on the day Goldman Sachs distributes bonuses – they probably do enough business to cover a year’s worth of overhead.

  • avatar
    mtypex

    Good, they can put the Chevrolet Cruze, Buick Verano, and Cadillac Cimmaronian all in the same space. I approve.

  • avatar
    George B

    No. There are better and less expensive locations to display GM products than Manhattan. I’d start with some location frequented by people who actually drive cars.

    I like the Honda display in the Port Columbus International Airport. One bright red Honda Accord coupe (appropriate Ohio State color), one J series V6 engine, one huge “Built in Ohio” sign. Simple brand promotion display with lots of foot traffic. GM could duplicate the same concept at the Dallas-Fort Worth International airport except substitute a Chevrolet Tahoe and “Built in Texas”. Same idea with the Malibu and Kansas City.

    • 0 avatar
      daga

      Lexus did it nicely in Chicago too. Hub airports make a lot of sense for the volume luxury brands. I don’t think that means manhattan doesn’t though. I’m not sure what rents are like their now, but anyone who got a long term lease on sidewalk level retail space in the last bottom (91) got a great deal.

  • avatar
    TexN

    GM needs this like I need another hole in my head! Maybe I’m a dumbass, but how about if GM designs and builds quality products, engages the public in an honest dialogue with a sense of humility and gratitude, and slowly works to rebuild their brands. I can’t shake the feeling that the current GM leadership is too focused on forcing an IPO, cashing out their shares and riding off with their new-found millions rather than doing the hard work of building a sustainable business. I hope I’m wrong.
    Tex

  • avatar
    educatordan

    With GMs money, yes they can do this. With my money, no, absolutely not.

    Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot they paid everything back already!

    +1 to George B.’s suggestion. That would make more sense.

  • avatar
    mikey

    As one who depends on a GM pension check,my thoughts would be, no. Lets work on,keeping what we got,and directing efforts/money into building quality products that New Yorkers want to buy.

    Chasing “market share” wasn’t the smartest strategy in the past,and, IMHO its certainly not the route to go now.

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Is ‘salon’ one of those trinket stores like GM had in Detroit Metro Airport (something like the banner pic) … or is it a facility which gives an upscale quality feel to the whole enterprise?

    The DTW trinket facility left me cold, except for the Corvette I saw inside… btw, how did the DTW trinket shop work out for GM? Was it worth the effort/money, did it build or damage the GM stable of brands?

  • avatar
    lawmonkey

    This will definitely get foot traffic if it goes in – I lived in NYC for two years, and in the heat of the summer or cold of the winter or rain, all of those tourists have to go somewhere. Kind of like how the M&M store gets so many people even though the product can be found at or near 80+% of the cash registers in the country. The target wouldn’t be Manhattanites, but everyone else who just ambles around.

    Issue is of course the cost. Now is an excellent time to strike a lease in NYC. Of course just because it is relatively cheap doesn’t mean it makes good business sense. I imagine all of those budget men and women who haven’t steered GM wrong yet can make that call.

    However I emphatically second the idea about a stress free place to check out the new models. I wouldn’t mind checking out the new Buicks, if for no other reason than being able to recommend them to someone who might appreciate their current models. If I were to set my 29-year-old foot in a current Buick showroom just to check them out, I might unfairly get the salesman’s expectations of demographic shifts to manic levels. A no-expectation experience would be better for all involved.

  • avatar
    Captain Tungsten (of GM)

    FWIW, that salon at the Detroit airport depicted at the top of the article is gone……

  • avatar
    seanx37

    Who drives in NYC? And if they can afford to own, operate and maintain a car there…they aren’t buying a BUICK. No matter how nice they are these days.

    • 0 avatar
      blue adidas

      It’s the news, magazine, newspaper, online center of the universe. There’s a reason that Target advertises all over the city but there aren’t even any Target stores. This city is crammed full of influencers, tastemakers, publishers and editors. To have a GM brand experience space would not be intended for those of us who live here. And no, I would never drive a Buick, at least the Buicks from a couple years ago. But I would consider a CTS-V when I go to replace my Audi. Probably not seriously tho.

    • 0 avatar
      flameded

      +1

  • avatar
    forraymond

    Design, build and market high quality, attractive, competitive cars, trucks and SUVS and the rest will take care of itself. IT IS THAT SIMPLE GM – DAMMIT!!!

    • 0 avatar
      flameded

      Yup.
      I email them all the time with (basically) that very same Idea.
      It’s gonna be a sad day when they finally go, even though we all know it’s been a long time coming.

  • avatar
    The Walking Eye

    Does any car company need a Manhattan salon?

    Although this does intrigue me in the no-stress looking sense. Would be nice for each major city to have something where people could test drive before going to a dealer in a no-stress environment. Would probably cost way too much though, sadly.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    It was underwhelming, anyway. I never understood why all 3 domestics wouldn’t have showcases for the stopover tourists to walk through.

    All that old Cadillac did was depress me about better times for GM….

  • avatar
    1996MEdition

    TexN – “Maybe I’m a dumbass, but how about if GM designs and builds quality products, engages the public in an honest dialogue with a sense of humility and gratitude, and slowly works to rebuild their brands.”

    Just how many holes do you have in that head?

  • avatar
    GarbageMotorsCo.

    Why? GM has plenty of other places to move its vehicles

    https://www.hertz.com/rentacar/location/index.jsp?targetPage=locationTabView.jsp

  • avatar
    nevets248

    I think it would be a GREAT idea for all of the GM Marching band, flag -waving followers of special Ed and “harder,faster” Henderson . Christy Garwood, are you listening?

  • avatar
    Lokki

    I’ve been saying this for a while now, but I think that instead of a tasteful “GM , ain’t we got purty cars?” display in Manhattan GM needs to do something dramatic and gimmicky –

    Put a CTS-V or a new Buick LaCrosse on display in Times Square on a display stand with engine running, radio playing, lights flashing on and off, and robot arms opening and closing the doors, trunk and hood for “the equivalent of” 100,000 miles nonstop or with stops only for normal service intervals.

    The details of the gimmick don’t matter – it’s the show that counts. A few references back to the original “standard of the world” test of 100 years ago.

    The stated idea being to show how great the quality of the car has become (again), with the real idea of getting the car shown on Good Morning America, USA Today, et al with happy reporters talking about how confident GM has become in their quality nowadays.

    I’d bet that you could pull this off – including the cost of secretly building a ringer car – for the cost of leasing and staffing the salon in Manhattan for a year while getting far more positive press out of the equation.

    FWIW

  • avatar
    FTGDWolverineEdition'10

    @Lokki:

    Hmmmmmm….although it sounds ridiculous, it’s actually a quite interesting idea. Though, other companies might take up on the whole “ringer” thing, make a stink.

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