• Apr 29th 2008 at 8:03AM
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General Motors is on a campaign to streamline and cut through red tape, and to that end is changing the management structure of its brands. As of June 1, GM is establishing four new "brand czars" who will have increased control over their products and be responsible for their divisions' successes and failures. Pontiac-Buick-GMC, Cadillac-HUMMER-Saab, Chevrolet and Saturn will each be accountable to a new brand chief, who in turn will report to the corporate VP of sales, service and marketing. The positions, which will all be vice-president-level appointments (except for Saturn, whose brand czar will coordinate with Opel), will have increased input into the overall process from product development through sales.

The new brand czars will replace the five regional general managers that have acted until now as an insulator between the brands and its dealers. Insiders are hailing the move as a positive step, helping General Motors to streamline its bureaucracy.

[Source: Advertising Age]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      I do not understand the grouping of brands.

      However it is interesting that only Chevy and Saturn "stand alone". That leaves me to believe that if there should ever be another loss of a marquee it will come from one of the grouped ones.

      I don't understand the gesture to Saturn because as far as I can tell it hasn't made a dime on its original investment. Granted all it has become is "Opel of America" I still don't see why it wasn't folded up with another brand like Buick/Caddy.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I think Saturn is separate just because it is "American Opel" and would not be compatible with any of the other divisions.

        Since Saturn and Opel have to coordinate with each other for all products, this might be more of a nod to the power of Opel than of Saturn. Hey, if they keep sending over cars like the Astra, I'm not going to complain.
        • 7 Years Ago
        One other thing I forgot to mention - because GM setup Saturn originally as it's own company, the dealer contracts were written up with very much the same philosophy. Under the contracts, they're not really "dealers" - they're "retailers". This was not only to reinforce the no haggle policy (required since these cars were not profitable in the first place - bleeding had to stop somewhere) but also to prevent owners from putting other GM brands on the same lot. Doing so would have had consumers associating the brands as all part of GM which would defeat the point of propping up Saturn as the American economy icon it was intended to be.

        Talk about unintended consequences.

        Franchise laws in many states make GM's choices extremely difficult -- to the point of not being feasible -- from the perspective of brand consolidation or even closeouts. The laws make it near impossible for GM to merge the "retailers" with "dealers" - GM is allowed to setup their business for one market but responding to a new market has to be done by adding more. Replacement is not an option because that would mean removal before addition, and that might cost jobs. Thus, such a move isn't politically expedient, and even less politically correct.

        GM really is trapped here. This is the only way they can encourage/push dealers to close down because at least this way most folks will have some place to go. Brands can't die quietly - dealers live off them the same way the unions do. Nobody in this equation wants to understand the reality: the ship is sinking. If a few people jump off, the rest can survive. Since no one will, and GM can't force it, they have to repair the ship at sea with what they have on hand.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The issue with Saturn being stand alone has a lot to do with the founding of the brand. Saturn's original purpose was to be the American answer to Japan's econo cars that were, at the time, whippin' the big 3's collective butts. In order to do this with any real chance of success, GM tried to hide it's involvement with the brand from the public. Well, maybe hide is not exactly the right word, but the point was more or less for GM to be not be all that visible in any case - they knew they had a bad rap and didn't want to doom Saturn from get go. Accordingly, Saturn was commissioned as it's own stand-alone corporation so as to liberate it from GM's tainted image. Saturn got it's own unique platform, drivetrains, and assembly plant for years.

        Since then, the economy car segment fell off the radar, Saturn's secret was out and was eventually folded in as a division of GM, and of course the unique engineering is all but gone. All this happened during a time in favor of SUVs and the like, and only now are more efficient cars becoming default choices. But people expect the same luxuries that were available in larger cars and SUVs. Having become accustomed to long standard equipment lists, the buying public now expects certain features to be included, regardless of the type of car in question. It makes perfect sense to take Saturn upscale in light of these market forces. In order to avoid stepping on Chevy or Buick, Saturn is going after the euro crowd, of which there is definitely a market. Sort of like a poor man's Audi/VW, among others that compete in that space of the market.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Saab really has no business being grouped with Cadillac; it would be a much better fit as the upscale version of OpelSaturn, since its platforms are reskinned Opels anyway.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I understood what Saturn was at one time. It was the customer-friendly plastic car maker. Now, it's just an Opel importer. Kill Saturn, and make them Opels.

      Just like we should kill the G8 and make it a Holden.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Oh great, the possibility of rebadged Daewoos is apparent....
      • 7 Years Ago
      Saturns supposed to be like right under Chevy....atleast i thought it was supposed to be a lighter form of car, like better fuel economy with no haggle pricing.

      I hope a true Pontiac fan runs the show at B/P/G cause he needs to see that the GTO should return as a 2 door G8 and the Trans Am should return as a light sleek sports car =)
      • 7 Years Ago
      I have never understood the purpose of Saturn. GM should have channelled those resources into Pontiac (if it intended to close Oldsmobile) and Saab.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Saturn was intended to be a brand that non-GM buyers would be willing to buy because GM hoped they wouldn't realize it was a GM car. Thats why the original ads tried to make Saturn out as a non car company car, but an independant standalone company.
      • 7 Years Ago
      GM is reorganizing to save money and to try to reduce it's legacy costs. Saturn is a bright spot for the company having been completely unveiled a new lineup in just 18 months, which is incredible in its speed and depth. It did so by leveraging it's global assets which any businessman would do. And it paid off with the Aura winning 2007 North American Car of the Year, and with the release of the Astra, which will compete nicely against VW and others in the category. I had a chance to drive the car on the test track in Frankfurt and I was completely impressed--even more so when they announced the price. The lineup is easy--Chevy is their global brand, Pontiac is their performance brand, Saturn is their youth brand, GMC is their truck brand (along with Chevy trucks,) Cadillac is their luxury brand, HUMMER is their off-road brand, Buick is their lifestyle brand and Saab appeals to those with euro-leanings. Simple--a brand for every segment.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Saturn? A bright spot? LOL

        Hasn't turned a profit yet since it was first introduced as a plastic Japanese alternative with no haggle pricing.

        The Aura sales have been much lower than expected.
        Two reasons:
        1. Very limited number of dealers (400) across the country
        2. Lack of credibility in the automotive market. Will Saturn still be around in 2010?

        Astra does have a lot going for it, but will it attract customers to the brand? I'm not sure. Pontiac would have scored big on this one.

        • 7 Years Ago
        Yep, bright spot...January sales for GM had Saturn seeing an nice increase at a time when others were flat.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Ah, yes - the deck chair shuffle. Is that a band playing in the background?

      I have a hard time believing GM will be able to undo 30 years of ill will toward its customers before it runs out of money.

      Man the lifeboats!

      • 7 Years Ago
      Who is looking after Holden?
      • 7 Years Ago
      @Russell - I drive an Infiniti - so I guess I have forgiven them for Pearl Harbor.

      But one has to wonder, would the Japanese gotten their foot in the door if the big 3 had built better products and treated their customers right?

      @jamie - Great avatar!
      • 7 Years Ago
      The only GM will ever "streamline" it's money-sapping bureaucracy is to eliminate the overlap.

      No automaker in this day and age with GM's piddling (and dwindling) marketshare needs eight brands overlapping each other in the same market.

      GM knows this, but they can't afford to shutter any of them. Oldsmobile alone cost GM over a billion dollars in lawsuits from fanchisees and other costs. Yet GM can't really afford to keep all their brands afloat either.

      The company is pretty much stuck the way it is and the best they can do is a deck chair shuffle.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Czars? Great, more clueless executives at the top. How much are they going to get paid?
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