The guys at AutoWeek must get totally bored pumping up GM products as they so frequently do. Today their lead story plugs the Regal GS, not even confirmed yet for production, as the potential savior of the Buick division. The idea is to take a rebadged Opel (the basic Regal) and performance-ize it with a hotted-up four-banger and a bunch of options that, in fact, would make it a pretty good car. Details and the press release are here. You can see it at the Detroit (North American International) Auto Show next week.
“GM officials can hardly contain their enthusiasm for this version of Buick performance, updated for the 21st century,” crows AutoWeek, but nobody’s talking about the real problem: how to rebrand Buick as a performance marque with one untested car and the world’s most durable old-fart, old-fogey image in the car biz.
The top GM official, CEO/Chairman Ed Whitacre, met the press yesterday and dropped this bombshell:
You want to be a profitable company, and I think everything else just sort of flows from that—numbers of vehicles, how many fleet, how many in retail. We’ve kind of restructured, put our priorities in the right place.
Here’s a company whose sales are in the toilet, and this is the vision it comes up with? GM can’t and won’t be able to sell its new products, good as they might be, until they change their vision and their marketing—change it radically. We have all seen the Howie Long ads, and they typify the kind of arrogant downsell GM has traditionally used:
The company needs a complete rethink (more on that later) as to how it approaches its customers. Some very good ideas on how to successfully market cars in a bad economy came recently from Scott Keogh, Audi America’s CMO. Watch this video and learn how Audi used three creative strategies to vault ahead in market share. Keogh also points out how American carmakers have progressively lost their way for the past twenty years.
What do you think of Keogh’s charges against Detroit’s marketing, that it has “eroded the romance, the nostalgia and ideals of the automotive business”?