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In a New York Times piece penned today by Micheline Maynard, the author charts the decline of the Detroit and the rise of Asian automakers as seen through the lens and fortunes of the Chevrolet Impala. It's an interesting glimpse into how a top-tier, mainstream (read: non-automotive) publication reads the Big Three's conundrum. As one might reasonably expect for a piece designed to be read by non-enthusiasts, it's arguably oversimplified, but it remains a worthwhile read regardless, if only to see how mainstream media is portraying the issue.

[Sources: The New York Times; General Motors]

 



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      • 8 Years Ago
      And the NY Times article mentions nothing about the Donk Box, and Donk Bubble scene that is making a complete joke out of those cars now... Which is probably a good thing because those cars are painful on the eyes.


      • 8 Years Ago
      "GM deserves to fall. I don't take joy in it, but it's a sad reality that they're execs don't have a clue."

      Since you know so much and have a clue, you should take Jim Press' old job he had before promoted. You're too good for a U.S. auto company exec position.


      "You know there's something seriously wrong when a CAMRY looks sportier than an Impala."

      If by sporier you mean, ugly and over done then OK.


      "Between a generic Japanese car and a generic American car, why would people give the latter the time of day,..."

      Why would people? Not sure. Why would Americans? Well supposedly those Americans who have thought the Japanese cars are better say things like, "All things equal, I'd buy the American brand". So if they are both generic and EVEN CR says the Impala is good, there is no excuse. Except now the excuse is it has to be so much better. When it is so much better the excuse will be GM execs are bad. When new execs come in it will be .
      • 8 Years Ago
      "Blaming GM's horseshit product quality on legacy costs is a lame, right-wing cop out."

      Right-wing? Hardly think that legacy costs are a thing thought more by any party type. Because there are no rich, BMW or Lexus driving right-wingers that think GM and Ford should die. Whatever.



      "If that were true, then please explain why GM's all-time worst vehicles were produced when the company was absolutely swimming in cash (1970s and 1980s)."

      How about because no one (and no company is perfect). Why is Apple having screen problems with iPods when they are selling 14 million in quarter 4 of last year? Why did Toyota stop selling the Tercel, Previa, Celica, etc. if they have been growing and growing and profitable? Because everyone has duds.



      "The logic just makes no sense."

      YES. YOURS doesn't, I agree.



      "If anything, GM's vehicle quality has IMPROVED MARKEDLY in the past 5 years, just when the "legacy costs" are alleged to be holding the company back."

      Yes. Profits and quality don't always go hand-in-hand. China = poor quality and huge profits with most of their products. By getting rid of some of those "alleged" healthcare costs GM went from losing $1.2 billion same time last year to making $443 million this quarter. There is more than one thing wrong. It is legacy costs plus perception. Quality is there but profits aren't but it makes the legacy costs even harder on them.



      "Back when the legacy costs didn't bother anyone (due to the company's enormous overall profitability) GM was making the worst products in its corporate history."

      As competition gets tougher no one company can hold 50% or more of the market. It was inevitable for GM to lose market share eventually. People look at Apple and the iPod and think, "look how many of those they sell, Apple is great". But the iPod is one facet of their business. GM kicks butt in at least one facet of their business (large SUVs). Apple doesn't sell 50% of all home computers or 50% of all business computers. If Apple had at one time 50% of the market (or just use IBM which isn't in the PC market anymore) and with (relative to Apple) newcomers like Dell and mergers like HP-Compaq, Apple would have lost a ton of market share today in one of their core businesses. Now, unlike Apple and IBM (PC division which is now Chinese owned BTW), GM and Ford have UNION CONTRACTS IN PLACE. That is where INEVITABLE LEGACY COSTS COME INTO PLACE. Whirlpool and Maytag didn't have LG and Samsung years ago. If LG and Samsung make 1 sale as newcomers it eats market share. It is inevitable in the U.S. for companies to lose market share PERIOD because of globalization and foreign companies coming over. The difference is the auto union. Look at Whirlpool's top of the line washer and dryer and most of their products: they are not made here. Apparently they have no union contracts or their union is not nearly as powerful because Whirlpool makes anything anywhere. I.E. it is different circumstances for GM and Ford than most any U.S. manufacturing companies PERIOD. Amana was bought by Maytag and Whirlpool is getting Maytag. You think GM and Ford are bad, they are outlasting 99% of U.S. manufacturing companies.

      Oh, yes, and don't forget the LEGACY of GM having so many divisions. THEY HAVE CONTRACTS with dealers. GM CAN NOT, I REPEAT CAN NOT easily just kill brands. I'm shocked they could kill Oldsmobile. If McDonalds decided to get rid of all Southern state franchises do you think even McDonalds could do that? They have contracts with these people. GM has contracts with dealers (and there is a dealer association, kinda like a union). Bye all Buick dealers, sorry you have had the dealership for 30 years, go get another job. Bye all Pontiac dealers. Yeah, right.





      "GM cars are OK, but not good enough. Spent time with a rented Malibu last weekend and it was a decent car, but not nearly as good as a corresponding Accord or Camry with which it directly competes."

      What? Using a (potentially) abused rental car as your base experience? Not only that, rental cars are usually bottom of the line in features.


      "When GM offers much the same cars in Impala/LaCrosse/Grand Prix, and Malibu/G6, and Lucerene/DTS, it offers enough confusion to make some buyers choose to ignore all of them and buy a more clearly differentiated Honda, Acura, Toyota, or Lexus."

      What? Actually you are probably right. We do have too many Bart Simpson under achievers who get a little flustered if that have to think here in America. But in all honesty, MOST Americans don't even know what divisions are GM and couldn't name which platforms are shared. It comes down to way more other things than GM having similar vehicles bet
      • 8 Years Ago
      I thought the article was better written and researched than the typical MSM articles looking at Detroit. I own an Accord and have previously owned a Camry, and they are not particularly dazzling cars. Their main appeal is overall competence and reliability. If GM and Ford could improve reliability (and convince Consumer Reports that their products are reliable)there is no reason they couldn't have the top selling car.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Ah, the wisdom of Mickie Maynard. She wrote a book titled "The End of Detroit" a few years ago. Just chock full of sloppy, seat of the pants reasoning. I haven't a clue how she landed a gig at the NYT.

      My review of her book on Amazon (scroll down to the second review on the page):

      http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A1PDK0LSZTX7LB/ref=cm_pdp_reviews_see_all/104-9303787-3087160

      On GM and the Impala, the Chevrolet doesn't have to be the most stylish sedan. Unlike Toyota, GM has other brands for that.

      The argument that GM would do better to invest in fewer products is also BS, assuming that they know what they're doing (big assumption). Any product that can turn a profit is worth investing in. "Investing" is the key term. They're not simply spending money--the idea is that by investing the money the product will sell well enough at a high enough price to earn it back.

      Especially with the intelligent use of platforms, there's no reason GM's strategy shouldn't be more profitable than Toyota's. The problem isn't the number of products, it's GM's ability to create products that enough people want to pay enough money for.

      Having multiple brands should enable them to create products better suited for individual segments than Toyota can with one product. That they haven't done this points to problems beyond the number of products/brands they offer.

      The emphasis on having the best-selling model is the stuff of little minds, and partly semantics. After all, the Solara is included in Camry sales totals, but are they including Monte Carlo sales in the Impala sales totals? Exactly.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The audio slideshow did hit one nail on the head...GM can't create one segment leading midsize because they have to divide their attention among too many brands.

      Imagine what would happen if they put all their efforts into creating a Camry-beating sedan. It certainly is possible, but first GM NEEDS TO DOWNSIZE!
      • 8 Years Ago
      GM cars are OK, but not good enough. Spent time with a rented Malibu last weekend and it was a decent car, but not nearly as good as a corresponding Accord or Camry with which it directly competes.

      When GM offers much the same cars in Impala/LaCrosse/Grand Prix, and Malibu/G6, and Lucerene/DTS, it offers enough confusion to make some buyers choose to ignore all of them and buy a more clearly differentiated Honda, Acura, Toyota, or Lexus.

      I think the only time Honda denigrated its good name was when it slapped the "Passport" name on an Isuzu Rodeo and called that thing a Honda so dealers would have an SUV to sell before the Pilot was ready.

      I wonder how much the Honda Passport hurt Honda's reputation among some Passport owners who didn't realize that they were getting a fake Honda when they bought it.

      I wonder if Ford will ultimately ruin the Mazda brand by mixing it too much with the Fusion and Fusion's derivatives.

      The Japanese do share platforms, but they don't seem to badge engineer to the extent GM and Ford do.

      I think simpler is better when it comes to car choices and GM's brands are still too complicated. Better to merge brands and dealers to reduce offerings to the basics.
      • 8 Years Ago
      It just seems to me that if you are going to REALISTICALLY campare apples to apples in sales figures then you have to look at all the cars that are made from the same platform.

      Example: Ford sells the most full size pickups, right? Well, not exactly. If you add up the sales of the Chevy Silverado and and the GMC pickup (they are EXACTLY the same except for the grill and minor details) then GM sells the most full size pickups, almost every year. Another, Camry has been the best selling car in America since 1997. Yes if you just count the name. Now go back and add up the sales of the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable (same car, built in the same factory) and guess who has the most sales? I wouldn't be surprised that until a few years ago (because Ford didn't do anything with the Tuarus/Sable) that the Ford corporate twins outsold Camry every year. You say well, we should count the Lexus ES 300 since it's based off the Camry platform? Fair enough. Go ahead and add them in. Still not enough to make a difference.

      So if the Impala is from the same platoform as the LaCrosse, Grand Prix, and Monte Carlo, we need to add the sales of ALL those cars to see how GM is doing in the large family sedan segment (it's only fair to include Monte because Toyota inlcudes the Solara).

      Also you need to look at sales of the Malibu and Potiac G6 to get the overall picture for the "medium" family sedan segment. Now you have a picture of GM's entire performance in family sedans. Does anybody have access to those numbers and can post them here?

      You can do the same for the Ford Fusion and 500 and whatever the Mercury version is called.

      I would not be surprised if both GM and Ford are outselling Camry/ES and Accord/TL?CL?.
      • 8 Years Ago
      Blaming GM's horseshit product quality on legacy costs is a lame, right-wing cop out. If that were true, then please explain why GM's all-time worst vehicles were produced when the company was absolutely swimming in cash (1970s and 1980s).

      Chevette? Cimmaron? Olds Diesels? The "dustbuster" minivans? Vega? Cavalier/Sunbird 1st gen? All of those came out when the automaker had record profits.

      The logic just makes no sense. If anything, GM's vehicle quality has IMPROVED MARKEDLY in the past 5 years, just when the "legacy costs" are alleged to be holding the company back. Back when the legacy costs didn't bother anyone (due to the company's enormous overall profitability) GM was making the worst products in its corporate history. Yes, eliminating legacy costs would give them a lot more money. Unfortunately history doesn't suggest that they'll use it wisely, i.e. rushing Tahoes to market when gas is going through the roof and SUV sales are declining. Brilliant. As soon as GM proves that it doesn't have idiots in charge, THEN i'll start feeling bad for them regarding legacy costs.
      • 8 Years Ago
      The article points out intially that GM's strategy is NOT about producing a single sales leader in a given segment. Yet the main thrust of the article is complaining about the Impala not being the sales leader among family sedans.

      It seems to me that, having established the first point, the article should have discussed instead why GM should change its strategy. All we get in that regard are a few assertions and anecdotes. Where, for example, is the discussion of how GM's "flock of family sedans" is doing against the Camry?
      • 8 Years Ago
      Having driven concurrent generations of Chevys, Pontiacs, Buicks that share platforms (thanks to the good people at Avis, Hertz and National) I gotta agree theres no reason to keep a brand. Besides styling differences, and real subtle changes in suspension stiffness there is no difference!

      Why the general would insist on making one decent car spread thin like a schmear of cream cheese on a bagel over all its brands is a mystery. Blame legacy costs, blame plant capabilities, blame the focus on SUVs just dont blame GM management for attempting to try a different tack.

      Heres a free recipe for GM: Impala is a good name, and could be an even better car. Kill Grand Prix, Lacrosse, and the other assorted brand-plates and make one really good one and watch the problems start to finally ebb away.
      • 8 Years Ago
      GM deserves to fall. I don't take joy in it, but it's a sad reality that they're execs don't have a clue.

      You know there's something seriously wrong when a CAMRY looks sportier than an Impala. The new Impala has a giant RENT ME! sign on it, and smells of a haphazard effort on the General's part. Why make it generic? Between a generic Japanese car and a generic American car, why would people give the latter the time of day, especially when it has to fight a decades-long bad rep?

      Having a bunch of different sedan lineups is a stupid decision, and the sales prove it. Different models means more parts to deal with, fragmented R&D costs, etc. Make one great product or a bunch of mediocre ones? Even an automotive giant like GM has limited resources, and they can't afford to NOT focus on a single car. But that'd be risky. Selling generic fleetmobiles is so much safer.

      Make the Impala RWD, dump the Avis design. Too many junkie vehicles residing in similar segments (why the need for a Cobalt sedan, Malibu and Impala? why not just two?). Stop blaming the press, Japanese trade deficit, Japanese currency, or any other lame excuse.
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