General Motors: It's Time for a Rebranding

General Motors: It's Time for a Rebranding

Summary: Is the future of General Motors its most recognized brand? My gut feeling is yes.

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TOPICS: Open Source
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Is the future of General Motors its most recognized brand? My gut feeling is yes.

Associated Press is reporting that over 1000 auto dealers are going to be forced to close as a result of GM's restructuring, which will include the elimination of the Pontiac brand, and the possible selling or closing of Saturn, Hummer, and SAAB. Only Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick will remain.

While indeed this is a sign that GM is going to possibly pull itself out of the abyss, I think even more drastic measures need to be taken by the company.

Click on the "Read the rest of this entry" link below for more.

I have an emotional attachment to the automotive industry because of a life long friend, Mark, who I've known since early elementary school who's family was once in the car business. In particular, during the 1980s and 1990s and up until 2007, they had successful Chevy, Ford, and Dodge dealerships. In the last 10 years, business had waned, and it finally culminated in the closing of their last dealership, one of the most respected and well-known Chevrolet dealerships on Long Island.

Mark, who has only ever known the car business, and who grew up to become the General Manager of the family's Chevy dealership and oversaw all its operations, has been unemployed for over a year. He's trying to get things together to try to buy a new dealership, but things aren't looking good. Last night, he finally admitted to me that he's now seriously thinking about changing industries. He's a heck of a salesman, and i am sure he will land on his feet.

Still, both of us can't help look back on old times and remember the glory days of the American auto industry. I still fondly recall my first new GM car I bought from him, a Chevrolet Beretta. I was enormously proud of my S10 Blazer and my Tahoe, which got me through a lot of snowy winters. I also loved the reliability and dependability of the Malibu and the Lumina that I bought from him after I got married, and will always remember the excellent customer service I received from Mark's family and employees. It pains me to say that for the last six years, I've been driving used imported cars rather than buying new vehicles from Mark, since I closed down my own private consulting business and moved into the corporate world -- I couldn't justify the expensive leases anymore.

I spoke to Mark for some time yesterday and we talked a bit about the GM restructuring. Mark and I often disagree on many things, but there was one thing that we both agreed on, which is that GM wasn't taking this restructuring far enough -- that it really should eliminate GMC and Buick, and only have two brands -- Chevrolet and Cadillac. To go even further, I would suggest to GM that they rebrand the entire company Chevrolet Motors.

Why Chevrolet? Because Chevy has always been the bread and butter of GM's revenues, and it has the most visibility in NASCAR auto racing, arguably the most important source of advertising for the company and where much of the automotive research from GM is being applied as a testbed. While it wasn't GM's first brand -- it was Buick when the company was formed in 1903, as the Chevrolet line wasn't acquired and merged into GM until 1918 -- there is no question that if push comes to shove, "Chevy" is the name that personifies the best and most iconic vehicles ever produced by the American auto industry and the brand that made GM the profitable automotive titan it once was.

If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. Chevrolet offers sedans, trucks, vans and SUV's -- the complete spectrum of products that is required to address every segment of the market. With a focus on Chevy, there's no reason for Buick or GMC to exist, strictly for the redundancy of having alternative brandings. In the new economy, General Motors can no longer afford to have separate toolings, separate ad campaigns and separate dealerships for brands of marginal usefulness.

While I would almost go as far to say that Cadillac should also be put out to pasture, as the single luxury line of Chevrolet Motors, it can still probably justify its existence, provided that Chevy can consolidate production lines and chassis and most of the common parts in order to produce premium versions of the sedans and trucks with the Cadillac moniker, and not leave Cadillac cars in stock, reserving them strictly for special orders.

To me, the heartbeat of the American car industry will always be Chevrolet. And if pressed, I think GM executives probably feel the same way. Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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Topic: Open Source

About

Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet, is a technologist with over two decades of experience integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer.

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109 comments
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  • One virus and you loose the plant

    Pontiac might never have been GM.Some of this could be the Latin Kings.
    BALTHOR
  • RE: General Motors: It's Time for a Rebranding

    Consolidating branding would be a great idea. Other companies in other fields eventually consolidate multiple brands under a single brand, why have they waited this long? This would help in keeping cars more unique (Buick, Chevy, GM, Cadillac look a-likes are an annoyance to me, same for Ford, Lincoln, Mercury - they're obviously the same car with a different logo on the front, why bother having different logos?).
    grayknight-22253692004129760887070084760051
    • Have You Been To A Dealer Lately?

      Look at the Saturn Aura, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac G6 and Saab 9-3. They are all on the same platform (Epsilon). Do they all look alike?
      CptMatt
      • In my not so humble opinion

        The Saturn is ugly, the Chevy is meh, the Pontiac and SAAB are attractive enough for me to consider owning. But in the end they are so similar mechanically if I wanted a GM product it would come down to price.

        Really GM needs to focus on 2 lines, a value line and a premium line. Then they need to get some taste in design more along the lines of European or Japanese cars. Pontiac is dangerously close to being there and SAAB already is. Shame they are closing them down, but I can't argue with the profitability numbers.
        colinnwn
    • RE: General Motors: It's Time for a Rebranding

      I guess you don't realize that the same applied to Toyota/Lexus, Honda/Acura, Nissan/Infiniti, VW/Audi and will soon happen with Hyundia/Kia.

      The only difference is U.S. auto makers have too many brands to share designs with. The author is wrong about scuttleing Cadillac. The only Caddys that share teh same look with any other GM vehicles are the Escalade line. No other Caddy looks like any other GM vehicle.

      If you don't think the same applies to the imports take a good look at the Civic/TSX, Accord/TL, Murano/FX35-45, all VWs look exactly like their higher end Audis.
      NPGMBR
    • They are not the same.

      I sold Cadillac, they are made better. The trucks use the same platform, but it takes much longer because of how they build them. They bolt and weld them, they are foam filled. Every thing about a Cadillac is a step above the GMC Denali.

      The car line doesn't share anything with the other GM lines. They are their own entity.

      Just like the Corvette, Cadillac needs to be here. Before the C5 Corvette came out, GM considered dropping it. They couldn't sell the, they had trouble giving them away. Since 97, the corvette has been the best sports car you could buy for under $100 Million. As they say, every Chevy has a little Corvette in it.

      The American auto industry has taken it in the chops for a number of year. They didn't make decent cars for almost 10 years from 77 to 87. Since they started addressing the problem they have made great strides. The American cars now are well made cars.

      Americans always decry the lost jobs to other countries, but here we see all these people driving import cars and complaining. Just who do they think caused the collapse of the American auto industry.

      It costs $2000 more to build an Impala than it does to build a Camry. With the same equipment, the Camry will sell for $2000 more. The cost difference is the union benefit package. Toyota pays more per hour for their American workers, but they don't get all the benefits that the UAW workers get.
      mjolnar@...
      • best sports car < $100 million!

        "Since 97, the corvette has been the best sports car you could buy for under $100 Million"

        lol

        lol

        lol

        Sorry, I'm sure you can justify that ridiculus statement.
        nicey1966
    • Buick is not

      Buick has no peer look a like products from GM.

      Oh, I do work for a Buick GMC dealer.
      ssbn642blue
  • One Thing About Buick

    I am by no means a fan of Buick or the cars that they make but I am a big car guy. I remember reading about 2 months ago in the NY Times that in China Buick is more highly regarded than even BMW and Mercedes among customers. The huge new middle class in China was buying up Enclave's and Lucerne's like crazy. I am having trouble finding the NYT article but here is a link to a 2006 article about Buick being the most popular car company in China: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12801549/

    Business wise that has to be taken into account because the Chinese market obviously has a much bigger upside than the US one does just because of the 1.3 billion population
    leland.riordan
    • good point but...

      It is true Buick is huge in China, but the fact is, it's largely a branding
      thing. What is a Chevy or Cadillac here could be a Buick over there.
      They could kill the Buick brand here but keep it going in China.
      lumpy_blumpkin
      • Actually, GM is getting it right with Buick in China

        Yes, Buick is one of the best selling car brands in China, and the Buicks
        sold there are unique to the Chinese market. For once, they've actually
        taken the time and effort to understand a foreign market, and design and
        build vehicles for it instead of attempt to foist off the American models
        where they don't belong.

        The Chinese market is definitely keeping Buick alive. If the decision
        between it and Pontiac had been based entirely on North American sales,
        Buick would be the one to go. Buick sold fewer cars last year than
        Oldsmobile did in 2000 when GM announced that brand's demise.
        etpowell
      • Correct

        If it makes sense to keep a BRAND alive in China for marketing purposes, as they rebrand Chevy cars there now, that's one thing. But separate tooling and dealerships for Chevy and Buick make no sense.
        jperlow
        • Rebranding is certainly possible...

          anyone remember Datsun?
          msalzberg
          • Datsun

            Is a good example of this, although I don't remember exactly WHY they changed the whole company name to Nissan.
            jperlow
          • Why was Datsun was changed to Nissan?

            See the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datsun#Rebranding.
            Heimdall222
          • I think Nissan...

            was the corporate name, not Datsun. They changed the car name to
            match the corporate name.
            msalzberg
          • See ...

            ... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datsun.
            M Wagner
        • No no no no no no!!!!

          Dude, it was the "build once, brand twice" brand-management mentality of GM in the 80's & 90's that really destroyed the customer loyalty for them. Beyond the atrocious build quality of their cars in the 80's, it was the fact that there was no real mechanical difference (and in some cases virtually no external differences either) between the brands that sunk GM. Like someone else said, if the Buick/Olds/Pontiac/Chevy are essentially the same car, then the decision basically boils down to price.

          The only way for GM to survive (i.e., as a comglomerate of car brands, not one car manufacturer relabeling the same product) it HAS to have actual different products built for those different markets.

          Take Plymouth as an example ... what was the difference between a Plymouth and a Dodge? Nothing. Then why have the Plymouth brand at all? Well, the answer to that is ... there is no need for a re-branded Dodge, so bye bye Plymouth.

          Cadillacs need to be (and today, are) different from Chevy's. Buicks have to be different from Pontiacs. Etc. etc. The only possible reason I can see for the continued existence of GMC is in the big-truck market, not the light-truck / pickup / SUV market.

          I feel bad about Pontiac going away, but GM screwed them in the same way Olds got screwed ... actual differentiation of product came too little too late and they had lost all their customer base due to GM's wrong-headed brand-management approach.
          Gravyboat McGee
  • Another take on auto re-branding

    Good post. Here's another take on Chrysler and GM re-branding: http://bit.ly/7iKbn
    wbaker@...
  • More unemployment socialist agenda.....

    Has anyone thought how many jobs this provides, from
    local auto-parts stores to dealerships.

    I am so tired of these liberal responses, from people
    who buy Hondas, Toyotas who want to see the ONLY
    manufacturing that exist in America be destroyed.

    Did you think when GM, Ford and Chrysler go down
    that it sends a ripple effect through the economy.

    Marketing, Database mining, Finances, Employees who
    purchase new homes, cars, computers, clothing I
    guess that has NO effect on you does it???????

    When Socialist Obama tells them to build Yugo's it
    will be the death nail in the coffin.


    I find it amazing how arrogant people are so quick to
    say SHUT it all down. What do you tell all these
    people hit the street, so much for your 25 years of
    service SEE YA!!!

    If you think you are immune the TAX on energy has not
    been put in effect yet, just wait and I will see
    the same people crying about 'I lost my job'...
    Christian_<><