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The New General Motors

The 2010 Buick LaCrosse: Can it help save GM?

Silver bullet points

The New General Motors Company Launches Today.” So the headline read from the official GM announcement last Friday that the company was emerging from bankruptcy. The headline was followed by five bullet points, which outlined how the new GM would be much better than the old GM.

First on the list was that they’d “…get back to the business of building great cars and trucks, serving customer needs.” I think if they had used the words “get down to the business of” instead of “get back to the business of,” I’d have more faith that they’d actually be changing the way they’ve done things in the past.

Next, we read that there will be a “New company created from GM’s strongest assets.” Among those assets GM includes the entire line of GMC trucks. Isn’t this duplication of products one of the (many) things that got them in trouble in the first place? Why did both the GMC truck division and Chevy’s lineup of identical trucks survive into the new GM? If GM really wanted to have four separate divisions, maybe they could have dumped GMC and saved Pontiac, and returned it to the days when 90 percent of its lineup wasn’t rebadged Chevys.

This all ties neatly into their third bullet point: “Four core brands backed by the nation’s largest and strongest dealer network.” Maybe with the right people in the marketing department, those four core brands might even have been: Chevy, the mainstream division (lose either the Impala or the Malibu, add a station wagon version of whichever you keep, and somehow create a super-economical version of the Camaro); Saturn, the everyday import-fighter division (with better marketing, and maybe one more smaller model, who knows how well the current lineup of Opel-based Saturns could have done in the marketplace; and drop the Sky—eave that car to Pontiac); Buick/Cadillac, the luxury division (with Buick facing off against the lower-rung Lexuses, Acuras, and Infinitis, while Cadillac ramped things up a bit to better take on BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and Jaguar); and Pontiac, the performance division (lose the G3, G5, Torrent, and Vibe; add a new turbo-diesel re-bodied G6 to give VW Jetta TDI and Nissan Altima Hybrid buyers something else to look at, with super performance and fantastic gas mileage; and expand the G8, and maybe find a way to produce it here in North America, as Australian-built cars just never seem to catch on here no matter how good they are).

The fourth and fifth bullet points in the GM announcement concerned a streamlined organization and more open communications. Here’s how I’d see a more streamlined organization: Chevy Division, Cadillac/Buick Division, Saturn Division, and Pontiac Division. The way almost identical cars go back and forth across the border, I see no real need for a whole separate GM Canada, but the South American, European, and Asian markets need to run by themselves.

I guess the thing that bothers me the most about the whole bankruptcy episode, aside from the fact that as a taxpayer I’ve now got a stake in the thing, is this one little tidbit located farther down the page of the GM press release: among other points, “the new GM is built on…A competitive cost structure, a cleaner balance sheet…”

And just how does a company in bankruptcy emerge with a cleaner balance sheet? Usually by agreeing not to fully pay its current bills. Yes, indeedy, let’s just start fresh. And suppliers, by the way, not only are we probably not going to pay you all of the money we owe you, but we’d like to keep buying the same stuff from you at reduced costs.

Thanks for doing business with the new GM.

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