What is Wrong at General Motors

I’m beginning to think the problem at General Motors, one of the largest enterprises in the world, is that they don’t think like one enterprise. They are so large, with so many different divisions and operations, that their approach to improvement is piecemeal. And they think their customers won’t see this.

            My comment is prompted by a small snafu surrounding a recent posting on the GM FastLane blog. Brian McVeigh, general manager of GMNA Field Sales, Service & Parts, described what he termed “great news” that had been announced at the annual conference of the National Automobile Dealers Association.

            The news was that, beginning March 5, GM will offer a 100,000-miles-or-five-years powertrain warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance on all 2002-2006 Certified Used Vehicles. McVeigh commented that the new plan “has many features in common with the new vehicle warranty we announced last year.”

            Well, not everything in common. While both warranties offer 100,000-mile coverage, the new-car warranty begins with 2007 models.

            Some people find this approach a bit inconsistent, to put it mildly. Several unhappy comments were posted on the blog. One person wrote:


            “So let me get this straight. If I trade in my 2004 Pontiac GXP and it qualifies as a 'Certified Used Car' it will have a 5yr/100,000 warranty upon resale, is that right? Yet while I own it, I don't have that same warranty!?!?! Is there something wrong with this picture or am I blind?... Don't you think it would be wise to show some appreciation to those of us that currently own GM vehicles, that are not covered by this warranty, and have kept them in 'Certified Used Car' condition?!? After all, those 'Certified Used Cars' must come from somewhere!!


            Another writer looked at the situation more broadly:


            “While the warranty support is a forward step for GM, the company remains far off the right track of bringing cars to the market that are affordable, look good, and have 'real' substance. For example, when GM pushes a car like the Impala as a winning model, I question if you have any clue about how to really beat the competition. The Impala is sadly lacking. Take a look at Honda's design for its current Civic, its upcoming 2008 Accord or its Fit/Jazz model. The Fit alone is better than the majority of GM's lineup… Does GM understand how to build identity and an audience from the ground floor and grow it? From the look of things, sadly, you still don't get it. The one GM car I would consider is the Pontiac Vibe...or should I say Pontiac Toyota.


            There’s more, but you get the idea.

            In the original post, McVeigh wrote, “Our customers expect quality. We hear you, and we’re delivering it.”

            I’m not sure what GM is hearing. But it seems their listening skills (not to mention their understanding of what customers perceive as value) leave a lot to be desired.


   UPDATE: While I generally agree with both of the comments quoted above, I discovered something related to the second writer's criticism of GM pushing the Impala as a winning model. Forbes automotive columnist Jerry Flint, in a recent column, notes that, in fact, the Impala just about beats the Honda Accord and trails only the Toyota Camry in sales of vehicles in its class. (Flint also makes the point that GM doesn't seem to know what to do with the Impala.)


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