General Motors will Succeed – Here’s Why

Although General Motors saw a 2.5% slide in sales for the month of February, things are looking better for the automaker than they did just a couple of months ago. The biggest worry for General Motors in the 4th quarter of 2005 was the possible strike of Delphi workers. Delphi is General Motors’ largest parts supplier and a strike would cripple production and leave GM assembly lines at a stand still, almost certainly putting the worlds largest automaker into bankruptcy. However, as Delphi and the UAW continue to work toward a solution this seems far less likely than back in early December. General Motors has also made progress with the UAW in terms of health care and other legacy costs.

At a time when GM is aligning its production capacity with its market share, the General is investing more money into R&D. Clearly General Motors understands that the best long-term solution is to build great cars that people actually want to buy.

On the product front, the long anticipated Chevrolet Tahoe and GMC Yukon are selling extremely well. So well that General Motors is having a hard time keeping up with demand. This is a great sign for the new line of pick-up trucks GM plans to introduce later this year. Pontiac is riding high on strong Solstice sales, and Saturn is getting ready with a product offensive that should move the brand into a more up-scale position, while also attracting new buyers.

Of course some areas still need attention. GM is working to beef up its sedan offerings. The new Impala is a great start, though it lacks the design chutzpah that Detroit was once known for. The Cobalt and Pontiac Pursuit are a definite improvement over the Cavalier and Sunfire. However, the Cobalt and Pursuit benchmarked the previous generation Volkswagen Jetta which has been replaced with a more sophisticated offering.

This leaves the Cobalt and Pursuit a generation behind in terms of vehicle dynamics and engineering. You only need to look at the Honda Civic to realize that even small cars have to be smart and sophisticated. As Toyota prepares to introduce the next generation Camry with available hybrid technology, General Motors will have to invest significant resources to bring its hybrid program up to speed. Even without the hybrid option, the 2007 Camry looks like the 800 pound gorilla in the family sedan category. With the availability of a 3.5L V6 producing over 265hp, the Camry hopes to shed its image as a boring family sedan.

Buick is in serious trouble and GM knows it. Some inside the company want to “Oldsmobile” it. The brand shouldn’t be dropped. Get some of the guys and gals from Cadillac over to Buick ASAP. It’s a brand worth keeping but only if they go after a younger audience. Buick has lost its confidence and the only way they’ll get it back is by building a competent, exciting family sedan with rear wheel drive and a strong V6 or V8. The Chrysler 300C would have been a hell of a Buick. As for Saab, some say get rid of it. I say keep it. With sales growing on the back of the “born from Jets” ad campaign, Saab is ready for prime time. The Saab brand has a strong identity but it needs a strong line-up to get competitive. Stop offering hand-me-downs from other divisions and start investing some time and effort into the brand. With sales of Volvo surging over the last few years there is no reason why Saab can’t grow as well.

It’s time for General Motors to let the designers create cutting edge cars, and let the engineers develop industry leading technologies. All said and done I know General Motors has the talent and ability to design and build good products. Over the next 12-24 months I think we’ll see a company that has come back from the brink, becoming leaner and meaner, ready to take on the best automobile manufacturers from around the world. Good luck!