Thursday, February 19, 2009

A glimpse of the all-too-close automotive future. Lack of excitement.....Lack of brands

Today GM announced that it was immediately disbanding its performance car division and associated lines. The story from Automotive News says it all:

(From Automotive News) DETROIT -- General Motors, focusing on mainstream products in a battle to survive, has scrapped a unit that produced high-performance vehicles.
GM today disbanded High Performance Vehicle Operations, which is based at the company's suburban Detroit technical center, and redeployed its engineers, said spokesman Vince Muniga.
"All high-performance projects are on indefinite hold," Muniga said. "The engineers are moving into different areas of the organization, and they will work on Cadillacs, Buicks, Chevrolets and Pontiacs."
The unit created low-volume vehicles for GM's divisions designed to appeal to enthusiasts and bolster the company's image. Products included V-series Cadillacs and the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, HHR SS and a V-8 version of the Colorado.
Muniga said there are no plans for high-performance versions of upcoming cars.The move is in the spirit of GM's viability plan delivered to the U.S. Treasury Department on Tuesday. In the plan, GM said its future-product focus is on fuel- efficient cars and crossovers.
In short, I believe downsizing probably is the right step for GM as they must focus on being the most efficient mass player that they can be.

But this closure of the performance division on the heals of yesterday's announcement of slashing GM's brands to 4 (Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC) calls into question whether the number of brands are the problem at all. Customers in America want more and more differentiation and individuality (ref the success of Scion and Porsche) whether you call this type of diffentiation "brands" or interesting models within a brand, it is still absolutely essential that exciting quality product be offered. A company like GM should not kill its performance division AND its brand stable, unless it can figure out how to bring MUCH more excitement and quality to that which is left behind.

They better have a pretty spectacular plan for Chevy, Cadillac, Buick and GMC or else these moves will probably be nothing more than an accelerated path to bankruptcy.

Here's hoping.

1 comment:

Bentley Boy said...

Amen, Amen. That's what I love about the Mini brand - moderate fuel efficiency, functionality, and affordability without sacrificing performance and excitement. And...I have a feeling the Boston Bullet will offer the same experience from LM...hint, hint.