Reader Question: The Arrogance of GM?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Douglas asks: GM’s people didn’t, or wouldn’t understand their marketplace, and in 2007 GM failed. Went flat broke after 100 years of doing the same job. They learned nothing in a century of operating a business. No institutional knowledge seemed to carry from through.

When GM failed, they blamed their problems on workers’ wages and benefits, poor dealerships, hapless vendors, the economy, and a host of other things. They blamed everything except the single most important thing: The consumers’ perception of the value and quality of their vehicles.

GM never gave that a thought. It didn’t matter to them. Seriously.

Their attitude was, We’ll build ’em, and they’ll buy ’em. GM is a case study in arrogance and incompetence. A consumer psychologist I worked with warned GM that removing Oldsmobile from the brand lineup would devastate Cadillac sales. GM refused to believe it. So, they did it, and it did. They killed the reasons for customer loyalty. That’s the root cause of why they went broke.

In its genius, GM removed two of the major “stepping stones” of their customers’ brand-loyalty advancement.

My Reply: GM has, indeed, assumed a top-down management style; you will buy what we think you should have – as opposed to, we’ll build what you let us know you want. And I think you make a very solid point about Olds – which can be extrapolated to include Pontiac. I have argued for years that killing Pontiac was even more foolish than killings Oldsmobile – because Pontiac could have and ought to have been GM’s highline performance division, its BMW fighter… which would have made sense as well as historical sense. Because Pontiac had a history of high-line performance, one that predates BMW’s M and even, arguably, Benz’s AMG arm.

Instead, GM management trashed Pontiac and turned Cadillac – their luxury car division – into a performance car division… .

And now GM is pushing Cadillac to be the electric car division.

Someone’s on the pipe… and it’s not me, this time.

. . .

Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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  1. GM and all car companies will build what the political terrorists tell them to build. Period. This is how Fascism works. Get use to it.

    GM had a choice to get rid of Pontiac or Buick. Buick has always been coveted by the 1.4B Chinese since the 1930s. The choice was the financially right one even though they sacrificed a useful performance division.

  2. GM was a dead man walking for 40 years before the government bailout.

    It killed itself in the late 1970s and early 80s as it moved to kill off all the uniqueness between its brands. Then it doubled down on the quality devastation it started in the early 1970s.

    Eventually there were just too many people who would never buy another GM car.

    Pontiac could have been this and Oldsmobile that but it didn’t matter because before 2009 both had lost the good fight internally in GM to be unique. Maybe they would get a little chance now and then but it was far too little.

  3. Shame the good brands died

    No need for a Gay Man’s Crusier, already got Chebby for that.
    Buick has a worse image than Caddy imo, only see old people (Like Grandparents) really into Buick’s
    I agree that Pontiac should of been around to do what Caddy was (Unsuccessfully) doing lately, Hi-Po German fighters
    Caddy should of stayed big and comfy

    With a woman pining to be in a sex and the city reboot leading Government Motors into the ground, I won’t shed a tear when they go under, just will be mad if Uncle bails ’em out again

  4. I asked a dealer employee one time about keeping Buick and nixing Pontiac. He was told that Pontiac was bigger in the US but Buick was bigger in China. So they kept Buick.
    Too bad, I love the idea of Pontiac as a poor mans BMW. I’d buy that. I’d buy a G8 today if I had the cheddar.

  5. Mid nineties and the wife had had her fill of 400+HP Chevy’s, well, she liked the power and would drive 95 when in the mood. What she really tired of was the steady 120 mph and above I’d drive on a trip. You had to be strapped in tight and ready for any amount of braking. We’ve been delayed after inadvertently passing a cop at well over twice the limit, then speeding up even more and finding a place to hide out till the heat was off.

    4 hrs and 5 minutes including fueling up half way in a 345 mile trip was typical.

    With more and more instant on radar Nazis on the road it began to wear on us both so the 95 Cutlass Supreme SL was the next move. A comfortable car with performance suspension and tires plus a plush leather interior was a good fit even though I detested FWD. So into this century and we’re looking for something larger but with sport handling and once again Olds was the brand to get our attention with an ill-fated model that was new to the lineup. I don’t even recall the name since it was a short lived thing plus having reliability problems early on.

    Most of our friends who had big Buicks weren’t keen on their power or handling but everyone who bought Lexus on one end or Supras on the other were pleased, especially the Lexus crowd.

    We just stayed with Silverados since we couldn’t have too many pickups.

    By this point 98s weren’t the car they had been by a long shot. A few years later and everything GM made except for truck platforms was junk and nothing improved after the bailout.

    More than a decade later I don’t want ANY new car or pickup. Still looking for the early 90s GM pickup that fits my want and needs.

  6. On paper and reviews the Gm’s performance luxury cars are doing well. The problem is past the warranty these things are getting “real people” reviews of horrible long term reliability. Thats 100k for a V model cadillac that will need serious repairs in 5 years. This just makes people with the 100k to spend to look the other way. Lexus has their F models and the reliability to match the price. BMW has their halo M as the bar setter. Cadillac has the escalade and should stick to the land yachts.

  7. I’ve been wondering recently if Pontiac was given the axe due to its decidedly un-PC name when the feds gave Government Motors an offer they couldn’t refuse. Have you ever heard any rumors about that being a possibility?

    • Hi David,

      It’s possible, certainly – although Pontiac was the actual name of an actual chief and so not actually derogatory. Of course, that matters not to the PC addled, who would probably decry the noble warrior image as somehow “racist.” Spare me.

      It is time for this to stop. No, more than that. It’s time for people to stop being afraid of being accused of “racism” for objecting to racist policies (e.g., “diversity” – which means everyone except white people) or not worshipping Martin Luther King and every culture/tradition/history except their own.


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