Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brands need their space

In spite of all the good news swirling around the Renaissance Center these past few weeks, this article in today's the Detroit News has me a little concerned.

"By 2018, she (Mary Barra, GM Product Chief) told the Wall Street analysts at the annual briefing, GM hopes to build 90 percent of its vehicles on 14 platforms — half the number now — and boost manufacturing efficiency by 40 percent. About one-third of its globally sold vehicles now share the same underpinnings."

I have just two words in response to this: Cadillac Cimmaron.

These guys can't be that bad at history that they can't remember 1982, can they? Maybe they'll be a little more subtle about platform sharing than Roger Smith and his cronies were. Maybe they won't just take a base Chevrolet change the fascia, add some gold trim, bolt in leather seats, and call it a Cadillac.

Efficiency is important. The financial realities can't be ignored. Some sharing of components between brands is necessary – Lexus and Toyota do it, Infiniti and Nissan do it – but it can't come at the expense of the identity of each brand. That's why GM shed Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Saturn, to make sure there was room to maintain differentiation between brands.

When the lines start to blur too much on the product side all the marketing in the world won't help them. Chevrolet needs to be Chevrolet. Cadillac must be Cadillac. And Buick has to be Buick.

If they're not?

Well, lets just say we've seen that movie before and everyone dies at the end.

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