By on July 30, 2020

In the cinematic classic National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, screen legend Kathy Ireland’s character is asked, under intense police questioning, whether she knows the traitorous General Mortars.

“Well, I drive a Buick,” she responds.

See? This proves the name General Motors confuses people. All the more reason to throw out that dusty moniker and write a new script.

You might be thinking right now that your author has dipped too deeply into the sauce, but that’s only half true. If you weren’t aware, much hilarity ensued yesterday after Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas, during an earnings call, asked GM CEO Mary Barra if the automaker has ever considered changing its name to reflect its current electric vehicle push. In Wednesday’s second-quarter earnings report, GM pledged not to retreat from its pre-virus product plan, claiming the timeline hasn’t changed.

The EV tsunami is already headed for an idyllic shore near you. Powering those vehicles will be proprietary Ultium batteries assembled at a massive facility currently under construction in Lordstown, Ohio.

“The General Motors brand has done its job, but I’m wondering if it might be out of touch with some of the really interesting directions you’re taking the business,” Jonas said. “Why not call the company Ultium, the entire company?”

Probably not the question Barra was expecting to have to answer. But answer it she did, making sure to come across as open-minded yet non-committal.

“We are open to looking at … anything that we think is going to drive long-term shareholder value,” Barra said. “We believe strongly in our EV future.”

Jokes immediately flashed across the Twitter box from humor muscles already exercised by the recent announcement that merger partners Fiat Chrysler and Groupe PSA will wear the name Stellantis in the near future.

Yes, the name General Motors dates back to an era where wax cylinder records were competing with 78 rpm phonograph discs for home music supremacy. Everyone knows what it is — or perhaps more specifically, what it was. It was the creator of Corvette and Camaro, of Silverado and Suburban.

Of Cavalier and Cimarron. Vega and Citation.

Of those cars your dad or mom or uncle said they’d never buy anymore, implanting a lasting stigma in your developing brain.

Ultium power is the automaker’s proclaimed future, though lucrative gas-powered trucks and SUVs will stick around, probably for a good long while, to fund the whole works. There can be benefit in a rebranding, but it comes with no shortage of risk. The risk of erasing a century-plus of name recognition and the heritage that comes with.

So, let’s have it. Would a name change do GM any good, or is this the stupidest thing you’ve heard of since KFC introduced the Double Down? What name would you give GM?

 

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84 Comments on “QOTD: Out With the Old, In With a Funky New Name?...”


  • avatar
    Lie2me

    Wait, what? What at those things at the wheels that the batteries electrify?

    Perhaps “General Electric Motors” if we can arrange a merger

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Don’t really care what GM changes their name to but Guangzhou Motors would be a more appropriate name especially if and when the Chinese buy GM. GM and FCA are dead to me and Ford is becoming dead to me as well.

    • 0 avatar
      RedRocket

      I never fail to be impressed by the open-minded, highly rational, and reasonable arguments that get made in the TTAC comments section.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        … and the Germans don’t pay their bills, the Japanese started WWII, the English and Italians build garbage…

        *sigh* I think I’ll just walk, oh wait, my shoes are made in China :(

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          “Get a horse!” ;)

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            “Get a horse!”

            Horses aren’t native to North America. The Spaniards brought them over. Kinda kills that old west myth.

        • 0 avatar
          ToolGuy

          There is a brand-new genuine ACDelco A/C Accumulator sitting on my dining room table. “Made in China” – the TIG welds are exquisite.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            If you hang out at Harbor Freight like I do you’d find some pretty impressive stuff

          • 0 avatar
            indi500fan

            China can certainly build excellent quality. It’s much more about the management than the laborers. The quality spectrum from China ranges from excellent to scary depending on the company. Those 99 buck 212cc engines from HF are an amazing value and run beautifully.

        • 0 avatar

          “the Japanese started WWII”

          That’s not true. You Snowflakes don’t know the history, and geography as well. And math and science too. FYI Snowflakes, Earth is not flat. Earth is a three dimensional object massive enough that the pull of gravity maintains its roughly spherical shape. Most of its deviation from spherical shape stems from the centrifugal force caused by rotation around its north-south axis. This force deforms the sphere into an oblate ellipsoid.

          So it is actually kind of ellipsoid and the “Evil Empire” formerly known as Amerika occupies only 20% of surface of the Earth that is not covered by water. There is a news for you Snowflakes. There are other countries on remaining 80% of Earth’s dry surface. One of them is called Germany and that is the country that started WWII in 1939. Why? To free slaves in Evil Empire. There is also the place on the planet (Earth is one of the planets in Solar System) known as Europe. That is where all wars usually start because there live evil white people.

  • avatar
    DedBull

    The time to change the name was back in 2009 when the “old GM” shuffled off to bankruptcy and a new company was formed. That being said, companies re-brand all the time, it’s just a sign of the times. It doesn’t matter what GM is called if the vehicles still bear their respective brand names.

    On a separate note, am I the only one who is baffled by GM’s decision to build this new battery plant in Lordstown OH on the same land as the factory that they decided to shut down and fire sale? Why not build the battery plant in the same location as you intend to build the full electric running gear/finished product?

  • avatar

    General Excuses.

  • avatar
    Nick_515

    This question has already been answered satisfactorily by the inimitable dw.

    The answer is GGM.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      @Nick_515: A little close to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s GG1 locomotive. … Or is that the connection you were trying to make?

      • 0 avatar
        Nick_515

        Vulpine – no, I was referring to Guangzhou Guadalajara Motors.

        • 0 avatar
          redapple

          NICK

          Let me help you cite the source. DEADWeight started the Guangzhou Guadalajara Motors 2 years or more -ago. I started responding to HIS usage as GGM.

          Too bad the PC crowd, know nothings but think they are smart and the constantly looking to be outraged crowd chased him away.

          He made me laugh A LOT.

        • 0 avatar
          Vulpine

          @Nick_515: Actually, that reference was understood. Unfortunately, the TTAC forums don’t like emoticons, so you didn’t see the two grins and fox head I’d planted behind it.

          • 0 avatar
            Nick_515

            Vulpine – I didn’t! That would have changed things.

            redapple – I would’t dare steal his ideas, or pretend i’m anywhere as colorful or current. If you notice my original post, it does end in a little “dw”

  • avatar
    Matt51

    The Caprice shown was a darned good car. GM never should have killed it. Keep the GM name,in my opinion, but if GM changes it, ok. The product is what counts, a rose by any other name …

    • 0 avatar
      indi500fan

      Saw one the other day with a sweet repaint and incredibly large diameter wire wheels. The driver had a smile you could see from a mile away.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      All the GM cars that went through the first phase of downsizing were good cars. GM was so afraid the public would reject smaller full-size cars they made sure they were the best cars they could make

      If only GM still had that kind of fear :(

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    The General ElectroMotive name has come and gone–along with the technology–as GM’s railroad locomotive division was sold in its entirety and shut down. One of the other locomotive builders now owns that name.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      My dad worked for ElectroMotive Div for many years. I grew-up around that place. I even got to man the the controls of a diesel locomotive engine on a test run when I was 10. Probably the high point of my childhood

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Should have been renamed General Malaise back in 1980…

  • avatar
    la834

    Electric motors are still motors, are they not? Even Tesla was originally called “Tesla Motors”.

    But yeah, it long struck me as odd that the companies were called things like “Ford Motor Company” rather than “Ford Car Company” or some such. I mean, they make entire automobiles, not just motors. Of course in the early days, they did just build motors and a basic chassis, with the body farmed out to other companies.

    • 0 avatar
      RedRocket

      How many car dealers are named “[insert name here] Motors” or “[insert another name here] Motor Sales”? Also, note that in the UK, calling something a “motor” is a euphemism for “car”.

  • avatar
    pveezy

    Well she’s already ruined everything else at the company, why not go after the name?

  • avatar
    mcs

    I think they should adopt the middle name of their founder, William Durant.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      There’s about seven people on here who would know Durant’s last name…

      Buickman would be one of them…

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        I do, I also know he was instrumental in the demise of the electric automobile with his introduction of the electric engine starter which made operating a ICE car a whole lot easier

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          His “middle” name. Look it up…

        • 0 avatar
          RedRocket

          Charles Kettering invented the electric starter, not Durant.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Yes, but it was made mainstream under Durant’s leadership. It was a big deal at the time

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Durant’s Head Office building something of an Art Deco gem still exists in the Leaside area of Toronto. It is currently, as is just about every piece of land in Toronto being rezoned for condos. However there is a large community action to force the developer to retain at least the facade of the existing building.

            The self-storage south and east of this building has a restored Durant car on display in its lobby.

            From a BlogTo posting dated November 6th 2016 with some incredible pictures and information regarding automotive manufacturing in Toronto:
            ‘The company started operations at its Leaside plant, formerly a munitions factory in the early 1920s, and by 1924, it was the third largest car manufacturer in the country. At one point, the complex at Laird Drive and Wicksteed Avenue sprawled across 11 buildings and 20 acres, including its Art Deco-styled offices at 150 Laird, which survive to this day.’

          • 0 avatar
            Arthur Dailey

            Sorry did not read all of that blog post before posting.

            1) I have seen the Durant on display.
            2) The author of the post is incorrect regarding Ford’s 2nd plant in Toronto. Their 2nd plant became the Shoppers World Mall on The Danforth. The majority of their assembly area is now a Lowes. You used to be able to walk along The Danforth and see the bricked over windows. When it was the Ford facility, people could actually watch the assembly area through these windows.

            From Wikipedia:
            ‘In 1921 the site was still a largely rural area on the fringe of the city of Toronto when the Danforth streetcar was extended to a new loop at Luttrell Avenue, just west of Victoria Park Avenue. This led to rapid development of the area. Most notably a Ford Motor Company assembly plant was built covering the large site at the southwest corner of Danforth and Victoria Park. The old factory building is now the main building of the mall. It is approximately 342,500 square feet (31,820 m2) in area.

            The plant was the Canadian site of Ford production of the Model T and Model A. It remained Ford’s primary Canadian facility until 1953 when Ford decided to construct the new Oakville Assembly Plant. It then became the first Canadian plant of Nash Motors making cars such as the Nash Rambler and the Nash Canadian Statesman. In 1954 Nash merged with Hudson Motor Car Company to create American Motors and soon after the Danforth assembly plant was closed. AMC moved its assembly operations to a new plant in Peel Village Development’s Peel Village in Brampton, and the Danforth factory was sold to Peel Village parent company Elder Mines & Developments Ltd, who planned to redevelop it into a shopping centre. In 1962 it was redeveloped into a mall.’

  • avatar
    mfrank

    I think GM should have continued to use the GM “Mark of Excellence” badge on GM vehicles. It’s the only thing that ties the brands together as one company.

    There was a time when Cadillac’s, Buick’s, Oldsmobile’s, and Chevrolet’s were great cars. I’m going back to 1977 here. The American auto market is completely different in 2020 than it was in 1977. The Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick brands in 1977 compared to 2020 could not be more different.

    The damage Mary Barra has done to GM will be extremely evident in the next five years. Kia and Hyundai are coming on strong and the Japanese and Germans are not relenting. I really believe GM is a sinking ship from a brands perspective. Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet are all damaged brands.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    GM had some solid vehicles until the last few years. The Buick Lacrosse and Impala were very good cars and the Colorado/Canyon are not bad. Too much cheapening of the product and the turbo I3s and I4s have not helped GM products. Cheapening of parts but then that is true of Ford and FCA as well. GM has been badly mismanaged and under the current leadership of Barra and company I doubt things will get better. I am not a GM hater as much as just being completely turned off to most of their vehicles and the diminishing quality. Ford is going the same route especially under the leadership of Hackett.

    • 0 avatar
      mfrank

      I don’t believe the turbo I3’s and I4’s are a problem at GM or Ford. Those engines will take over the entire auto industry. As stated many time on this site, Barra and Hackett share the same wash room and are shrinking both companies down fast. Lincoln, Cadillac, and Buick are all boutique brands.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    What a dumb question.

    Guess we’re gonna have more name changes…

    Ford MOTOR Company
    Honda MOTOR Company
    Toyota MOTOR Corporation
    Nissan MOTOR Company
    Mazda MOTOR Corporation
    TATA MOTORS

    Man, thats gonna be a lot of name changes for those EVs they’re all working on.

  • avatar
    Shockrave Flash Has Crashed

    Re-branding is a waste of money. Focus on fixing the dealers. Focus on having spare parts for common problems. Spend your resources on building up the brand you have. I don’t see how throwing out a bunch of stationary and business cards is going to sell any more pickups.

  • avatar
    redapple

    NICK

    Sorry man. I missed it. You are correct RE- dw.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Well maybe not now but when the turbo I3s and I4s with direct injection start to fail there will be a lot of unhappy owners who will not be taken care of. I doubt most of these turbo engines will last especially the way many people drive them which will be mostly quick and many will not service them timely. You cannot go for more than 5k intervals for oil changes on a turbo motor. Add putting water pumps and timing chains and belts enclosed together in an interference engine for more problems. Add to that the lowest priced cheaply made components that will be lucky if the vehicles last to 100k. Barra and Hackett are not interested in the long term survival of their companies just in how to get the short term earnings and value of the stock. Not to say that those items are not important but when the quality and reputation of the corporation is at stake then they will lose their sales and thus their profit long term. Unless you are selling expensive exotic cars that only a handful of well healed buyers can afford the quality of the vehicle in the long term is what matters to most and for most of us once burned then you are not likely to buy from that manufacturer again. You don’t have to build a vehicle that will last forever but you need to build a vehicle that will at least hold up long enough to pay it off.

    • 0 avatar
      mfrank

      Almost every company makes a turbo I3 and I4 including Toyota. All of these engine product excellent low end torque, which means there’s no reason to rev them high when accelerating.

      Most older turbo engines were driven like they were stolen by boy racers resulting in poor reliability. The I3 and I4 in GM and Ford’s mini-utes won’t be driven that hard on the way to the grocery store. Synthetic oil may help these engines last longer than 100K. Some turbo chargers may need to be replaced.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “What is good for General Motors is good for America”

    The reciprocal for that dictum, “What is bad for General Motors….” is something that I don’t dare to complete.

    Although we know that the original Charles Wilson saying was misconstrued.

  • avatar
    downunder

    LUST, Large United States Trucks.
    FLUST, Ford Large United States Trucks
    AV, Alphabet Vehicles, a conglomeration of FIAT,CHRYSLER, and anybody else who will join the party!

  • avatar

    General sounds too militaristic. I suggest to change name to one of those:
    “Kind Motors” or
    “Caring Motors” or
    “Flower Motor” or
    “Peace Motors” or
    “Dog Loving Motors” or

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    For anyone interested this is a great story about “peak GM” and the cars they built

    https://www.hemmings.com/stories/2020/06/01/the-1960-cadillac-eldorado-biarritz-was-gms-best-when-gm-was-building-the-best

    It helps to understand why some of us get bent out of shape as to what GM has become compared to where it came from

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    And how much will it cost the owner of these turbo I3s and I4s to replace turbos and enclosed water pumps and timing chains of belts out of warranty? Many of these vehicles will get scrapped when the cost of the repairs exceeds their value and that could be in much less than 10 years. The cheaply made parts will not hold up especially if they are plastic in the most critical parts. It is one thing to use plastic for door handles but another thing to use plastic in turbo chargers, timing gears, water pumps, exhaust manifolds, and other parts exposed to extreme heat. Might be better to lease a vehicle with turbos and direct injection especially if it has a CVT. GM, Ford, and FCA will make these parts as cheap as they can. I would trust Toyota and Honda more on using better parts. Yes you can make a turbo engine last but you have to use parts that will hold up. Synthetic oil is required on most new vehicles but without regular oil changes at intervals no more than 5k miles on a turbo then you are asking for trouble. Also if you stick a small turbo motor in a larger heavier vehicle it will not last. A turbo 3 and 4 should not go in any vehicle larger than a compact.

    • 0 avatar
      mfrank

      All that matters is how much torque an engine produces. The I3 turbo in the Bronco Sport puts out 190 pound feet and the four cylinder turbo in the Silverado puts out 348 pound feet. Both engines are more than powerful enough for the vesicles they’re in. All customers care about is how fast the vehicle accelerates when they put their foot on the gas. Most don’t even know how many cylinders it has.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    True most don’t know or even care how many cylinders a vehicle has. I care because if the vehicle is heavy then a smaller engine is under more strain and in the long run an engine under more strain is not going to last. A turbo I3 or I4 is probably enough in a subcompact or compact car or crossover. The Bronco Sport and the Maverick compact pickup will probably be OK with the 1.5 turbo I3 and 2.0 turbo I4 especially since both will be uni body. I was considering the Maverick but it will only come in a crew cab with a timing belt and water pump enclosed together. Maybe it will be alright but I wanted and needed a small truck now so I bought a 2008 Ranger regular cab. Also I wouldn’t want to buy one in the first year.

    • 0 avatar
      mfrank

      The 2020 Ranger only comes with the 2.3 Turbo I4. Are you going to stop buying rangers because of that? I drove both the Escape and Edge with the turbo I4 and neither one of those would I consider to be under powered. In fact I was quite impressed with both engines.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @mfrank: I bought a Colorado rather than waiting for a Ranger for exactly that reason; the ONLY engine in the Ranger is that turbo 2.3. If that turbo blows, you’re lucky if you have 100 horses under that hood and if you’re attempting to tow a (rated) 7000# trailer when it goes (very possible) it’s very probable that you’ll tear apart the rest of the engine at the same time. Certainly you’d be dragged to a dead stop with all that weight. At least a normally-aspirated V6 can tow the weight without risking the engine every time.

        Oh, and I’ve seen what happens to those Class 8s when they blow a turbo… And it’s very visible to see when that turbo’s about to go, too.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    No, I said I bought a 2008 Ranger because it better met my needs. The 2020 Ranger is bigger than a 2008 Ranger. I said I was interested in a true compact truck which is what the new Maverick compact pickup that will be introduced later next week. The 2020 Ranger is a midsize not a compact. I said nothing about the turbo 2.3 being underpowered I said I preferred not to buy a turbo because over the long run it is more expensive to maintain. You can buy a turbo if you want but I prefer not to buy a turbo. I have driven many turbos and yes they have lots of power but I am more interested in keeping a vehicle long term and my 2008 Ranger has more than enough power to meet my needs. I bought the truck to use to haul things not to race. Given a choice I will buy a non turbo that is not to say I would never buy a turbo engine I would rather have a less complex and simpler vehicle that is less expensive to maintain over the long run.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I meant introduced later next year not next week. There is a difference between putting a 4 cylinder in a full size truck which is heavier than a midsize truck. I am sure with enough turbo charging you can make a 6k pound truck accelerate fast with a 4 cylinder but the stress on the smaller engine with a heavier vehicle would shorten the life of that engine. Comparing a turbo 4 in a Ranger is much different than comparing a turbo 4 in the Silverado. The reason manufacturers are going to turbo 3s and 4s is more to comply with the stricter efficiency standards. Everytime you accelerate fast in a turbo engine the turbo kicks in and as a result more fuel is consumed and more wear on the turbo and the engine. If I owned a turbo I would most likely try to avoid too many quick accelerations because that puts more wear on the engine and the turbochargers. Many of the turbo 4s in the Explorer are not lasting too much beyond a 100k because it is a heavier vehicle.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @Vulpine–Agree with towing with a turbo. I would rather not buy a turbo engine but I understand why the manufacturers are making them and why some like them. Turbo engines, double clutch automatic transmissions, and CVTs are things I avoid on any vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      One of the best ICE configurations I’ve seen is the Koenigsegg Direct Drive system. It eliminates the transmission and uses electric motors to effectively replace the transmissions lower gears until the ICE engine can take over using direct-drive(via a hydraulic coupling). It’s a best-of-both-worlds kind of configuration. It can handle a lot of power. The V8 is 1100 Hp on 91 octane and there’s another 700hp of electric motors. I think about 2000 Nm of torque. You could do some serious towing with that. It probably could get scaled down by 50% and work well in a truck application. Cost shouldn’t be bad either since you’re eliminating the transmission.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        @mcs: You’re still putting up with a torque converter, though. Seems to me a more reliable mechanical connection would be dog-tooth gears that lock in once the engine speed and drive speed equal out at “high gear.” No hydraulics needed (another source of leaks) and solenoids can be much quicker than hydraulics for engaging and disengaging the gear.

  • avatar
    86er

    GM has already thrown away too many nameplates as it is.

    General Motors refers to the amalgam of makes it absorbed into its growing corporate concern about 100 years ago. Even if the numbers have ebbed and flowed (much as during the Depression), it is a legacy, whatever mixed feelings it elicits from customers in the marketplace.

    I echo similar comments about William Durant’s name being nearly lost to history. It is a shame; I can barely source a decent book on the man.

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