But….and a big But……this magic has not rubbed off on local GM product. Now maybe my logic is skewed, but for a great company with a fantastic local heritage, the lack of enthusiasts representing cars of the time is tragic. The cars were good, reliable and amazingly, the majority absolutely unique to SA and created by that powerful engineering operation, which should make them even more iconic, so why the lack of support? I have often pondered this, but the following story may just give a glimpse of how a lack of a single corporate identity, as well the General not being too willing to get down into the trenches with their followers, would probably be the main reasons.”
I’ll stop that story out of 2014 at this point…. This was not a isolated observation but something seen every year. The piece highlights a very simply flaw in GMSA’s multiple brand approach and the lack of definition around the GM core. Just how simple it would have been for the company to draw support from the massive base of support that is undoubtedly out there somewhere, I have seen no effort at all to pull this together.
But let’s take a look at GM’s more recent situation….. the reasons the company is in the dwang are complicated and have been eroding the foundations for years. I will bend a little and say that circumstance may have had a larger role to play than just ineptitude but either way it has been unchecked and has resulted in the news we heard last week.
For the rest of this post, here is an engineer’s perspective, so don’t think I will be kind to those marketing types. For most of my career in the business I have worked for companies that have had outstanding Engineering capability and have been let down in my opinion due to poor long term business and marketing strategy. Drive through any motor city in the country today and you will see the strong brand identity of the major players…, Toyota, VW , BMW, Merc, Ford, Kia, Hyundai etc, then you have the scattered brands like Mahindra probably mixed with GWM and others…. and finally you have GM’s popsicle branding of Opel, Chevrolet, Isuzu, Suzuki and of course GM. How long does it take marketing people to understand that that is about as hard hitting as being hit in the face with a damp cloth. Sadly, ‘GM’ counts for little in itself as a brand these days, simply because the company has done very little to get the man in the street to understand the relevance.
Ford, for Heaven’s sake is FORD, there is an unbroken historic model range and commitment linked to a single word, what the hell is GM in the same context?…not very much I’m afraid… and that’s the problem. Am I being unfairly critical?
I don’t think so, because the problem has been there since the late sixties when GM started losing it’s historical market footing and needed to compete on proper terms with new players. As I see it, the GM logo has often been an unnecessary complication rather than a fundamental requirement in the process. Having to hang on to the GM tag has diluted the message for all but the big brands and been something of a boat anchor for the Opels, Vauxhalls and locally for Chevrolet. These icons have not been let out of the closet to stake a claim as independents. For example, despite being close to the product and brand, I see Chevrolet locally as three brands, the original American, The flash in the pan 70’s, and the Koreans…C’mon guys where’s the continuity and sincerity in all this? At least Ford has an unbroken legacy…this stuff counts for something.
Each one of the brands leaving the fold has deserved individual TLC and in my opinion GM has not done so. Worse is that again I don’t think GM has respected the fact that each deserves that focus from concept, incubation through to the meaningful message in the real product…..and in the context of the territory (country) of sale. In my view the General has looked at SA as one size fits all and took what was available from the Corporate vehicle supermarket, tried to make that fit locally without any real long term commitment and where that has not worked, slink out the back door. My conundrum is a little more specific. How does a company that for most of its existence has been the No 1 car maker in the world, find it difficult to compete globally. How do upstarts like Kia and Hyundai not only survive but grow and put the General to shame in every aspect of the local market? here is a view you may find at least worth considering…..
Let’s go back to 1967 for no other reason than that is when I joined the company and came face to face with something I found surprising. I have already declared my GM colours. That commitment came from a hereditary disorder caused by the simple fact that my whole family owned GM products. I started my career by joining the company in Port Elizabeth, that closed the loop….and much like selecting the family religion….it tends to determine things for you if you are not mindful of reality.
The surprise, however, was that as an enthusiast, it put me immediately on the outer fringes of GM society. This was a professional manufacturing company, well organised, systems driven and staffed by err well…people. The company at that time dealt in the following Brands:
Euclid, AC, Delco, Chevrolet, Opel, Vauxhall, Holden, Bedford, GMC, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick, Cadillac, Acadian, Fridgidaire and of course GM. Here there was hardly room for individual product support, you were committed to the corporate…..the brands filled in the gaps.