QOTD: Out With the Old, In With a Funky New Name?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd out with the old in with a funky new name

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.

Old Detroit 3: GM, Chrysler and Ford

New Detroit 3: Ultium, Stellantis and Bronco Corp. https://t.co/s0xqV8UmDN

— Nick Bunkley (@nickbunkley) July 29, 2020

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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4 of 84 comments
  • Jeff S Jeff S on Aug 02, 2020

    @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.

    • See 1 previous
    • Vulpine Vulpine on Aug 02, 2020

      @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.

  • 86er 86er on Aug 02, 2020

    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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  • 28-Cars-Later "11 city / 16 highway / 13 combined" "$155,365 (U.S.) "So much winning.
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