General Motors - An American Idle

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, Apr 9, 2005.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    The Pontiac G6 is a sales flop. At General Motors, let the impeachment proceedings begin.

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    New, but an improvement? The Pontiac G6 replaced the creaky Grand Am but is selling at about half the volume.

    By Dan Neil, Times Staff Writer

    At the moment the news broke, I had written two words of a review of the Pontiac G6: "Dump Lutz."

    On Monday morning, the news came that General Motors North America Chairman Robert Lutz and Group Vice President Gary Cowger were "relinquishing" their duties with GM North America to assume unspecified roles in GM's global product development and manufacturing efforts — compared with the high-profile role Lutz has occupied, this is like "extraordinary rendition" to Pakistan.


    Although GM's chairman and chief executive is Rick Wagoner, Bob Lutz — also known as "Maximum Bob" — has been the point man for GM policy and future product design, the Great White-Haired Father, the Man with the Golden Gut, the auto industry's most quotable and charismatic executive in a town where charisma is scarcer than banana trees.

    In his 3 1/2 -year tenure, GM has lost something like 3 percentage points of market share. I was about to make the case that, given GM's current China syndrome — North American market share dropping to its lowest point in decades, and market analysts, sensing no real momentum for reform within the company, downgrading the company's bond ratings to near-junk status — someone's head ought to roll, and the most likely candidate would be the numinous white noggin of Lutz.

    Cashiering Lutz, I would have argued, would be a positive sign for the street's analysts that the company is serious about accountability.Indeed, it had to be Lutz, for symbolic reasons that go beyond the car business. Of course, the responsibility is not solely his, but the culture of executive exoneration has to end somewhere, and it's not going to be in Washington, D.C.

    However, given recent events, I have to revise my story. To wit: Dump Wagoner.

    It was Lutz, after all, who candidly averred at a Morgan Stanley meeting last month that GM might have to phase out some of its product lines, even using the word "damaged" to describe Pontiac and Buick. In the ensuing furor, Lutz claimed his remarks were taken out of context and over-hyped by the sensationalist media, like that scandal rag Automotive News.

    Wagoner memo to Lutz: Stop making sense.


    GM is a morass of a business case, but one thing seems clear enough, and Lutz's mistake was to state the obvious and then recant: The company's multiplicity of divisions and models is turning into a circular firing squad. How can four nearly identical minivans — one each for Pontiac, Buick, Chevrolet and Saturn — be anything but a waste of resources? Ditto the Four Horsemen of Suburbia, the Buick Rainier, Chevrolet TrailBlazer, GMC Envoy and Saab 9-7X. How does the Pontiac Montana minivan square with Pontiac as the "Excitement" division? Why, exactly, is GMC on this Earth?

    For a company so utterly devoted to each of its 11 brands — counting offshore badges such as Opel, Holden, Vauxhall — the overarching strategy seems to be to flatten the distinctiveness out of all of them
    in the name of global efficiencies. Take Saab, poor Saab. The new 9-3s will be built in Russelsheim, Germany, alongside Opel Vectras. The 9-2X is a badge-engineered Subaru WRX. The 9-7X is a Chevy Trailblazer built in the Nordic enclave of Moraine, Ohio.

    Other recent Wagoner miscues:

    GM utterly missed the boat on hybrid gas-electric technology
    and lobbied Congress not to raise fuel-economy standards on the grounds that meeting higher standards would divert funds from critical research in the ultimate propulsion technology, hydrogen fuel cells — an argument that, shall we say, lacks authenticity. Today, GM has no hybrids of consequence on the street, while rivals Toyota and Honda are selling as many as they can build.

    As part of a product reorganization, GM announced last month that it would speed up development of new SUVs and trucks in the pipeline and slow-walk development of rear-wheel-drive Zeta car projects. So, let's see: At a time when SUV sales are cliff-diving, GM proposes to speed up big SUV development and 86 the mid-size, rear-drive future products?

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    Inside the G6, a style-free zone

    This reallocation of deck chairs seems pointless when the real problem is the massive overhead of a company that cannot find the will to downsize. Capitalism, remember, is creative destruction.

    However, the best case for a putsch in GM's Renaissance Center offices is this: The cars aren't selling.

    Honestly, it takes some sort of perverse genius to make the Grand Am, the car the Pontiac G6 replaces, look like a showroom winner
    , but the G6 is selling at about half the volume of the unloved and unlovely Grand Am, which dates to the 1980s. Even a multimillion-dollar giveaway of G6s on "Oprah" in September wasn't enough to fire up sales of this car.

    Six months into its life, the G6 has thousands of dollars on its nose and analysts are calling it a flop. Last month, Pontiac offered more incentive money as a percentage of MSRP than any other brand, a full 16%, according to Edmunds.com.

    The G6 is not an awful car. It's entirely adequate. But plainly, adequate is not nearly enough.

    Exterior styling: The G6 sedan, based on the same stretched-wheelbase platform as the Malibu Maxx, has its wheels in the right place, nicely quadratic and corner-wise. There are a few odd proportions that add up to a kind of visual consternation: The car's front tapers around the headlamps like a school eraser; the rear deck is more a rear bustle, with an arm's length of sheet metal over the rear wheel wells; and wheels and tires themselves seem small when, at 17 inches in the GT package, they aren't really.

    Meanwhile, the detailing of the bodywork makes the skin of the car look eggshell-thin. I wonder how many buyers look at this car and wonder what is behind the billboard?

    Interior styling: The GT comes with comfortable leather-lined bucket seats, nicely bolstered with heaters. I like the soft grip on the hand brake. That exhausts my praise for the interior.

    The center console is a plastic fantastic with the now-familiar stacked boxes of the audio head and climate controls, and we know what comes with familiarity. This is pretty much a style-free zone in a larger moor of monochromatic plastic and vinyl.

    The G6 does have a couple of fun features, both optional: an oversized moon roof that folds back in sections so that, lined up on the roof, the car looks solar-powered; and a remote starting function.

    Some options are less fun: Side-impact and curtain air bags, four-wheel anti-lock brakes and traction control are all cost-extra options on the base model.

    Performance: The GT model I drove had a 3.5-liter iron-block V6 under the hood, good for 200 horsepower and no surprises at all. And — though I can't believe I'm writing this sentence in 2005 — this pushrod six is mated to a four-speed automatic transmission. It is because of this powertrain that the phrase "thrashy and unrefined" has become the hackneyed cliché that it has.

    The electric steering is numb and oddly weighted. Though I thought the ride was very nice, the handling is pushier than a mortgage-refinance telemarketer. The car has zero appetite for hard driving. You want excitement from the "Excitement" division? Try to get this thing to turn in a sharp corner.

    Bah.

    This is an uncompetitive product, an assertion borne out not by my say-so but by sales numbers. When ballclubs have losing records, players and coaches and managers get their walking papers.

    At GM, it's time to sweep the dugout.


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    Humpty Dumpty effect. Bodywork detailing makes the car's skin look eggshell-thin.

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  2. TankRizzo

    TankRizzo Sensational Moderator Super Moderator

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  3. Pro Street

    Pro Street New Member

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    GM just pulled all of their ads from the LA Times because of the reporting :mamoru:
     
  4. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Like they care. :mamoru:
     
  5. Fast GTI

    Fast GTI New Member

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    I want Toyota to buy GM.
     
  6. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    They aren't that stupid.
     
  7. dmora

    dmora Guest

    I wonder when GM will die.

    I hope they arent too tied into Holden and Corvette. :hsugh: If those 2 can stay profitable, i'm happy.
     
  8. GucciGucci

    GucciGucci Active Member

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    I finally seen a few G6s on the road.

    They don't look that bad.

    :hs:
     
  9. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    They need to ditch nearly everything short of Chevrolet and Cadillac if they want to survivie - but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.
     
  10. subgraphic

    subgraphic OT Supporter

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    Lutz is better for the auto industry than Hitler was for Blonde, blue eyed dudes.

    Wait....

    I love lutz.
     
  11. Fast GTI

    Fast GTI New Member

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    I didn't say it would happen. Why would Toyota buy a sinking ship?
     
  12. GucciGucci

    GucciGucci Active Member

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    In the latest issue of Automotive News, there was an article about how Toyota doesn't have to pay much money for its retirees health care.

    After the Toyota employees retire, the Japanese government pays the tab for healthcare.

    GMs tab for for their retirees is in the billions.
    :hsugh:
     
  13. TankRizzo

    TankRizzo Sensational Moderator Super Moderator

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    Is Pontiac that unsuccessful? My work is littered w/ new Grand Prix. :dunno:
     
  14. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    2.8% of US market share and dropping steadily baby. Buick is at 1.8% and donig the same. Chevrolet is flatlining. Saab is collapsing. Cadillac and Hummer sales are cooling.

    They don't have the money for a new platform, what makes them think they have the money to resurrect all these brands and keep Cadillac going? The answer is they can't.
     
  15. TankRizzo

    TankRizzo Sensational Moderator Super Moderator

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    They should have killed Buick when they axed Oldsmobile. I don't get GM, people keep telling them what they're doing wrong, yet they keep on; buisness as usual. :sad2:
     
  16. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    All the GM fanboy sites seem to think this is all because they stopped making the Camaro, and that all their brands are sacred and holy. :ugh:

    Realistically, GM would be much better off building Cadillac, Chevrolet, Hummer and Saab. Chrysler realized years ago having four car lines was suicide, it seems GM won't realize it until it's too late.
     
  17. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    Sigh. I wonder if ANYONE at GM is looking at Chrysler and saying, "HEY! Look what THOSE guys are doing!"
     
  18. Bernout

    Bernout OT Supporter

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    :werd:
    Iron block V6 FWD cars with auto trans. Is it 15 years ago still?

    Even Nissan's lowly Altima can be had with a 260hp aluminum DOHC motor.
     
  19. Chadder007

    Chadder007 OG Diamond Member

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    Yeah....they are quite a nice car. I bet GM uses the improving of the Pontiac models to say that improving the models is a failure....lets go back trying to make them crappy again.
     
  20. M5_Elite

    M5_Elite New Member

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    Donald Trump should buy GM and save it.
     
  21. Chadder007

    Chadder007 OG Diamond Member

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    Yep....but why aren't people buying it? Lame advertising? People not believing that Pontiac has improved a lot with this model?
     
  22. Drewski

    Drewski New Member

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    Considering that their is only 1 engine and 1 body style currently...it can't really be considered a flop. Not to mention there are still Grand Am's on the lot plus the closeness to the GP.

    So far, only one of three bodystyles and one of four possible engines has been released, not to mention the manual transmission variants. It's really too early to judge the G6 line yet. However hopefully GM has learned the valuable lesson of having the entire lineup ready at launch. They'd have been better off letting the Grand Am soldier on for one more year and releasing the G6 sedan in 2006 alongside the coupe and convertible and with all available powertrain choices.
     
  23. I don't think any businessman in history has bankrupted more companies than Trump.
     
  24. Why do they need so many goddamn brands? It's stupid. They need to look to Toyota and Honda for examples of how a profitable auto company should be run.

    Honda has what? ONE brand? Two if you count the america Acura.

    Toyota has three? Economy, Midrange, Luxury.

    This isn't rocket science.
     
  25. Jake!

    Jake! Guest

    no coupe
    no vert
    no big engines

    they need to get their shit together; atleast release the whole lineup at once


    the brands are only PART OF THE PROBLEM, they lost BILLIONS on fiat :ugh: and didn't even fight it in court. their health care is sucking them dry.
     

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