Killing Lions in the wild is an unpalatable thing altogether…but killing a lion in captivity and under your watch is in my opinion …well…not really a clever thing to do.
The following comment will not change anything and I could, like most, accept it and go into “Tribute to Holden Mode” but that’s not me and I need to get this off my chest even if it just for posterity. You see, this has happened before and whilst Mary Barra wields the financial whip on any territory not giving a sound return on investment, one must ask how much of that poor return is as a consequence of GM’s own historic poor strategic thinking.
The end of the Holden brand came as a complete surprise to everyone and the arrogant manner this has been done has been breathtakingly blunt. Corporate speak is attempting to ameliorate the hit with GM making it almost sound as if we should be sorry for them. Truth be told, had the GM brass had their way earlier, this would have happened some years ago. I am not sure how Aussie Holden folk see this fully as yet, however, early reactions are fairly volatile… I know I am hugely disappointed… not only because the General has abandoned a brand unnecessarily and destroyed one of Australia’s proudest Symbols but, as collateral, forced an unplanned detour to the finest form of motorsport on the planet.
Having said my piece quite forcibly upon hearing the news a few days ago, many of my friends were taken aback by my forthright comments…but days later feel I was not sufficiently verbose….and yes this whole mess will have massive effects on Supercars racing in Aus and NZ but that, bad as it is, is not my primary concern. It is about a pattern of behaviour from GM that in my opinion continues to hide the lack of a well balanced international product range…and a business strategy to support it. This is something a company of this stature should have well sorted by now…because that in my opinion is the real reason this has happened.
International Motor Companies produce product to be competitive …and the market in Australia is just that …. with top selling brands there proving that the market is healthy… and inhabited by Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, Mazda, Nissan, Isuzu, Volkswagen, Kia and Subaru in the top twenty sales chart…One Holden comes in at # 15 and the next Holden at # 49. So how did that happen to what was the most powerful auto maker on the planet?
If you listen to GM it ends up in that Corporate Speak
‘Corporate Speak’ much like politics, relies on the current top of the mind knowledge of receivers of this information being cluttered with too much daily junk to go into too much analysis…’tomorrows crises will diminish the importance of todays message…exponentially. But this one for me is not going to be explained away that easily.
In talking to a few Ford folk, even they are shocked. This is the one brand in the plethora of GM Monikers that should have been kept alive above all others. This was not like selling off Opel and Vauxhall to a third party and in the process maintaining the branding, or closing down an in-house US Brand like Pontiac where a different area of the GM department store is still run by the same boss…No …this was highway robbery at its best. I had my rant a few days ago but could not have put it into better words than the Australian Prime Minister:
“Australian taxpayers put millions into this multinational company. They let the brand just wither away on their watch. Now they are leaving it behind,”
In reading some of the blurb justifying the move as painful/difficult Mary Barra (a name ironically having a distinctly Aussie ring to it) said:
“I’ve often said that we will do the right thing, even when it’s hard, and this is one of those times.”
But you haven’t done the right thing…. You have done the expedient thing as a result, in my opinion, of not keeping your eyes on the prize over the years…
That first comment was followed up with my all-time favourite :
“we will take action in markets that cannot earn an adequate return for its shareholders.”
…that classic phrase neatly directs the blame for what has happened toward ‘those markets’ …. I have news for GM, the reasons those markets are unprofitable are most likely because there has historically been poor strategic response by your behemoth to the changes in the environments we are talking of.
Instead of keeping pace with trends in the Australian market or even better taking the lead and planning the transition for a competitive range of CBU product, as all the other OEM’s were forced to do , GM opted for something that was expedient, just destroying market acceptance by importing a very stunted range of Opels with that Iconic Holden Badge…from Peugeot. That for customers was tantamount to a middle finger to them and the Holden Brand. Sales plummeted because the lack of Corporate intent. GM your traditional customer base did not trust you any longer.
This could also have been a last minute hurrah by a handful of dedicated souls in the Corporate malaise trying to keep the blood flowing in an already partially dismembered limb. Either way this from where I see it, is a typically disinterested GM corporate approach to smaller markets requiring some out of the box solutionist support and thinking.
And they make it sound as if putting a different badge on car and making RHD product is star-wars stuff. As an Engineer I can tell you it is less difficult today than it was 40 years ago.
Lets just ask a few questions:
- The LHD vs RHD issue…What for the life of me is that different in General Motors, compared to other mainstream manufacturers, be it VW, Hyundai, Toyota or Ford to mention just a handful. They are all global operations, all have similar infrastructure, all need to respond to massively shifting markets and all have the left vs right hand drive conundrum. Yes RHD is now an issue for GM, but they have that problem maybe because they have screwed the opportunities they had in companies which had access to volume.
- What is the top of the mind driver that defines General Motors? For the other major brands there is a sense of purpose which sticks in the mind. Toyota: Reliability and honest value, Hyundai: Respect for their Head-down determination to succeed, VW: Teutonic resolve and mission to lead tech innovation in top line product (that despite the Diesel fiasco), Ford: A tough Quarterback committed to middle class endeavour. For GM…I’m kind of lost and why, I don’t know…but I have this picture of the primary endeavour being executives playing chess…with their brands as pawns.