Sunday, August 01, 2004

Can American automakers do anything?

It's being reported that the Big 3 are having specialty coach builders build niche vehicles. Has anyone noticed that these vehicles tend to be the only exciting vehicles that the Big 3 are capable of making?

The Corvette, which is not mentioned in the article, is essentially a specialized creature as well. It is also light years more competent of a vehicle than anything else in the Chevrolet stable. What does this mean? To me it means that there are organizational issues with the cars that GM and any other boring manufacturer makes. To create a pizzazz vehicle, that has special elements to it, you need a small group that is totally devoted to the car. You can't have a gigantic design center crank out for an entire lineup, and expect differentiation, or uniqueness. You need to have small focused groups working on the project. Big corporations, and car companies are no different, love to condense things, and give multiple roles to divisions, in the hopes that costs are cut. The result is always, bland, boring products. The automakers have realized this, and have been forced to go to outsiders for new ideas. And any cost savings that came from condensing, are now lost to hired guns to bring in the new ideas.

Automakers should have "squads" toiling over a defined creature, say a midsize sedan, and nothing else. They should think only in sedan terms, not work on sedans, as well as SUVS, as well as station wagons. To do so leads to boring, boring, boring, cars, that no one buys.

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