So…now it sounds like GM is going to loose Hummer & Saab, scale back Pontiac, and may kill off Saturn as well. And, both GM and Chrysler want a few billion more to stay alive until they can get their acts together.
Only Ford is staying out of this mess for now. And, much of the blame goes to an emphasis on trucks, and now that gas prices have changed buying behavior, they couldn’t react fast enough to meet the new demand structure.
I realize that it’s not just the “Big 3” that are suffering. Toyota has reported a loss for the first time in 70 years! Demand is down. We’ve demanded that cars last longer. We don’t go and buy a new car every 3-4 years like we used to. Reliability means that even buying a used car doesn’t need to be a nightmare.
But I look at companies like Audi or BMW. They produce a narrow line of cars. BMW, for example has the 1 series, the 3 series, the 5 series, 2 SUV’s, and the Z4 sports car. All of this is less than what Chevrolet offers. So, minimal platforms means they can much more effectively market their brand. But the Big 3 – how many different car lines, trim levels, and overall brands must they carry? Their strategy hasn’t changed since the days prior to the wave of reliable European & Asian manufacturers.
Back in the 60’s, American cars were strong. Reliable. Design leaders. Now, everything is derivative of their past designs. Their most exciting cars bank heavily on nostalgia. But from a design point of view, their “bread and butter” cars – are boring, and don’t exhibit any style that drives “passion” – good or bad. Chris Bangle just left his post at BMW – I think the best thing that GM should do as part of their restructuring plan – is to hire him to pen the next wave of trend-setting cars! At least GM would get other press from his appointment than their CEO pointing out a hybrid car that looks like a toaster!
Of course….there’s the risk that the toaster-car would then have a “Bangle-Butt”.