Thursday, February 17, 2005
General Motors fascinates me. It seems so representative of American ideals in manufacturing, and its cars showcase a type of American blandness in taste. Inoffensive, big, slow, monstrous. They more than the other manufacturers show real American values. That is why it bothers me when I see GM faltering. Below I've given my opinions on what vehicles GM needs to have for each of its decisions. It's an arrogant opinion that I know what the biggest car company in the world needs to do, but everyone will admit that they have to do SOMETHING. Next to the car I hope they build, I will put in parentheses next to it the name of the car that GM is producing for that niche. Where there is no name, that means GM is lacking in that area.
1 small sub-sub-compact/and hatch (Aveo)
1 sub compact Civic-size (Cobalt)
1 Accord/Camry size FWD 4 cylinder sedan (Malibu)
1 RWD inexpensive muscle car
1 RWD sports car (Corvette)
1 Car based SUV (Equinox, but possibly smaller)
1 compact pickup based SUV (Trailblazer)
1 fullsized pickup based SUV (Suburban)
1 fullsized crossover SUV (Avalanche)
1 large commercial van
1 compact commercial van
1 coupe based on Malibu platform
1 compact pick-up (Colorado, but smaller like Ford Ranger), diesel option
1 medium pick-up perhaps based on compact pickup platform with larger engines, diesel option
1 full size pick-up with diesel option
Basically I see the SUV craze coming to a halt and diminishing. We know that with two dollar per gallon prices, SUVs do not sell as well as they used to. If gas prices were to creep to 2.25, or 2.50, they will plummet. That means eliminating the Blazer, the Tahoe, etc. I realize the Blazer and Tahoe are smaller versions of the Suburban and Trailblazer, so perhaps building those and getting rid of the Suburban and Trailblazer might make more sense. Logically the Corvette should be a Cadillac, but it has such a tradition as a Chevy, you must leave it. Every division deserves a halo vehicle.
I've also eliminated the Impala. Chevrolet is trying to sell two sedans for a market that Honda and Toyota approach with one vehicle. Subsequently, the Accord and Camry sell in far greater quantities than any single Chevrolet offering. It seems crazy to put all your eggs in one basket, but it is the only strategy that works.
With the pickups, I think the Colorado should be smaller and compete more directly with the Ranger. Compact pickups are like compact cars, people buy them because that's all they can afford but they have to have them. By offering the larger Colorado verses the Ranger, the Ranger takes all those sales of lower middle class consumers who can't afford the higher expenses of the larger Colorado. The Ranger has sat in that niche for too long to not get competition. A nicely done pickup in its price range would destroy it.
1 v6 FWD sedan built on the Chevy 4 cylinder platform above (G6)
1 RWD slightly expensive muscle car built on same platform as Chevy version (GTO)
1 Fiero type COUPE (Solstice, but with permanent roof option, Saturn version will be ragtop)
1 compact pickup based SUV, possibly with larger engines then Chevy counterpart, and with leather seating, more options etc. (Torrent)
No minivans. The minivan market is a shadow of what it used to be in the early 90s, and Chevrolet and Pontiac compete with each other. GM should make a "luxury" minivan, to compete with Chrysler, but it should be in Buick. Cadillac is obviously too high class for a minivan.
1 FWD sedan built on same platform as G6, Malibu, emphasizing a quiet ride, comfortable seating. (LaCrosse)
1 FWD convertible able to seat at least four comfortably to directly compete with Chrysler Sebring. Built on same platform as above.
1 luxury minivan, sharing platform with Chevrolet version but having DVD players in back seats, leather seating, larger engines.
1 RWD large sedan, with portholes, v8 option. (Lucerne, sort of)
I don't think coupes are right for Buick. Old people want their kids to be able to climb in easily, or their friends to sit in back with ease, and a coupe does not allow that. There are no coupes now of course, so my complaint is senseless in some ways.
1 RWD 3-series sedan competitor (CTS)
1 RWD 5-series competitor (STS)
1 RWD 7-series competitor (DTS)
1 Corvette based sports car (XLR)
1 Large SUV (Escalade)
I see Cadillac as going head to head with BMW. They are already pursuing this way of doing things, and it is clearly working. The DTS and STS are priced too closely to each other. None of the cars will perform as well as BMW in terms of handling, so what they should concentrate on is chrome, engine size/power, and space. They should be larger, have great back seat room, and more horsepower than any other luxury offering. I think the Avalanche based Cadillac is too low class for the brand. I think a V-series is a good idea, but should be limited to the CTS, STS, and XLR. The DTS should emphasize comfort rather than power, but the power should still be there. That will be one way to discriminate between the STS and the DTS. The DTS should have more "gadgets", technological options and such. This brand needs the least amount of work, and its strong sales show. I really don't see a future with SRX station wagon. It just seems too European for me, but I'm hesitant to just get rid of it. I'd have to look at the sales before making a final determination.
1 Golf fighter
1 Jetta fighter (upcoming Aura)
1 roadster (Sky)
1 car based SUV (Vue)
And that's it. I don't think that this marque should have a minivan, but it does have one. The car company is basically, from all accounts I've read, going to be Opel America. That means middle class European cars, and the only car company that makes those right now in America is VW. Saturn should basically copy VW, STAY compact, give better values in terms of price, and make sure consumers know that they're buying a European car, not an American one. By building them here, they'll be able to beat the expensive European pricing. They should also stay small for now, and not try to make a Passat fighter, or move too high upmarket; that's where VW got into trouble. Saturn is very much a middle class brand and should stay that way. The no haggle pricing is still a great touch, but perhaps consumers could have the option of haggling, if they think they can wring out a better value!
This cuts out a lot of fat, and if GM could just emphasize in its design, brashness, and chrome, they would do well. And they would maintain that momentum by updating their models regularly, not hoping that a niche is filled.
Another thing I would do is get rid of GMC. That would mean an incredible volume loss for Pontiac/Buick/GMC dealerships in the short run, but in the long run would save the company billions. Obviously Chevy trucks would have to take up the slack, but perhaps the Pontiac/Buick dealerships could offer those SUVS and pickups with more amenities. I just don't see the shrinking heavy truck market as something to attack with two competing divisions. No one is fooled by the difference between GMC and Chevy trucks.
It's just one man's opinion, take it or leave it.