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Old 02-28-2006, 11:38 AM   #1
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GM Deathwatch #59: X Marks the Spot

Another excellent editorial from www.TheTruthAboutCars.com

Igor
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SOURCE:LINK WARNING: Contains 1 count of the F word
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General Motors Death Watch 59: X Marks the Spot
28 February 2006
By Robert Farago




Yesterday, The Detroit News caught-up with Maximum Bob Lutz at the Geneva Auto Show. GM’s Car Czar was busy unveiling Saab’s Aero-X, a Corvette-based concept car from a brand that’s lost GM several billion dollars over 17 years. It probably seemed as good a time as any to ask Maxi Bob about Board of Director member Jerry York’s call to axe Saab. "I've spoken at length with Jerry York," Lutz said. "And he's off this get-rid-of-Saab thing." Thing? Calling the Turnaround King’s strategic recommendation a “thing” is so condescending it probably qualifies Lutz for a British knighthood. More importantly, Maximum Bob’s summary dismissal tells you all you need to know about Saab’s future, and it ain’t good.

Lutz’ alternative to York’s Saabicide is badge engineering. Or, more specifically, MORE badge engineering. Yes, now that The General has sold off its share in Subaru, the plan to transform Japanese Scoobies into Swedish Saabs has been ditched in favor of turning German Opels into Swedish Saabs (with an Ohio SUV thrown in for good measure). In other words, GM is fully committed to integrating the Saab brand into the bureaucratic cluster****** (edit by Igor)known as GM’s “global vehicle development system.” Saab’s ignition key slot will remain in between the front seats, but the decisions about its major components will now be taken somewhere a long way away from Sweden. And the choices will be made by a series of committees with far greater responsibilities than “just” Saab.

Never mind that GM Marketing Maven Marketing Mark LeNeve recently swore on a stack of Solstii that GM would no longer slap a badge on a standardized GM product and call it a Pontiac Torrent (oops). Don’t confuse Maximum Bob with the company line; the man’s talking about returning Saab to profitability by lowering the division’s cost per unit. "Soon." Anyway, as the brand faithful will tell you, it’s too late to worry about the brand's identity; the Opel Vectra-based Saabs drive remarkably like… Opel Vectras. If you still cling to the belief that this platform sharing arrangement serves the greater glory of Saab, or, alternatively, justifies its destruction, Maximum Bob’s happy to dispel either proposition. "Saab is no longer an independent company that you could sell off as a unit."

Now there’s a bit of auto industry theater for you: Bob Lutz proudly admitting that GM has killed its Swedish goose before it could lay a single golden egg. Yes, proudly. As far as Maximum Bob is concerned, the de-Saabing of Saab is not only desirable, it’s overdue. "We left it independent way too long. Three years ago, Saab had its own capital budget. They ran the business as if it didn't belong to General Motors. Now, it's totally blended into the worldwide architecture plan." Saab had its own budget? Who the Hell did these Swedish guys think they were, a car company? We’ve got a business to run here, Sven.

If you want to know why GM makes such a broad range of substandard products, why they can’t or won’t build a truly magnificent Saab, there’s your answer: centralized power and control. The ends of the The General's vast Empire fight against the center-- and lose. Can you imagine the difficulty Saab has-- I mean would have had-- sourcing a seat bracket? Can you imagine the difficulties they would face if they tried to make a NEW seat bracket? Theoretically, the GM corporate mothership helps each brand achieve its goals. In practice, The General’s overarching bureaucracy sucks the life force out of everything it touches, until all its vehicles are as bland and lifeless as a Pontiac G6.

The opposite of corporate synergy is… GM. The “global architecture” that makes Lutz’ heart beat that little bit faster was designed by the company, for the company. Putting as many models a possible on the same platform using the same bits will reduce each brand’s unit costs, but it won’t enhance each brand’s character or the consumer’s pleasure. In fact, Saab never stood a chance against the legions of GM pencil pushers, bean counters and union reps: people who couldn’t care less if a Saab looks, feels and drives like an Opel as long as its sales, marketing and production don’t violate GM’s corporate practices. Creativity need not apply.

All of which makes the Aero-X concept a fitting memorial for Saab: a striking vehicle whose beauty and imagination will never see the light of day. Oh sure, Lutz dutifully mouthed the usual crap about incorporating the X’ “design cues” into Saab’s lineup, but it’s hard (not to say nauseating) to imagine GM adding the X’ aeronautic themes to Saab’s rebadged Trailblazer. The Aero X is physical proof that “crisis what crisis?” GM is happy to celebrate its corporate diversity-- even as it grinds its divisions, and itself, into the dust.
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Old 02-28-2006, 12:00 PM   #2
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Re: GM Deathwatch #59: X Marks the Spot

"until all its vehicles are as bland and lifeless as a Pontiac G6"


Or a Toyota for that matter.
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Old 02-28-2006, 02:27 PM   #3
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Yup... Except toyota is not killing good world makes like Saab and Opel..

the next couple months will be interesting...

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Old 02-28-2006, 02:58 PM   #4
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Igor, I've got to agree with what you have above. It's called "management by committee", no one takes responsibility, no one takes the blame, and no one provides any real leadership. Also known as "herd mentality", mavericks never get anywhere... but mavericks are where really new ideas come from.
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:09 PM   #5
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Wait... did he say cluster****..

Damn, and I thought our lovable Ford had troubles.
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:23 PM   #6
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally posted by cpyder
Wait... did he say cluster****..

Damn, and I thought our lovable Ford had troubles.
I never thought Ford (FoMoCo) had troubles.. the worst that could happen to FoMoCo, is for F/L/M closing bussiness in the US and Ford of Europe simply expanding to USDM and just becoming a German import

And yeah he did say clusterf--k and I agree... Ford is in SO much better position than GM with their global operations...

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Old 02-28-2006, 03:41 PM   #8
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A lot of companies go belly up with the centralization of power problem. Oldsmobile became a ghost, buick's next, and pontiac is rushing in behind. Why,
because they all shared the same platforms......Lutz, who's he working for....the Japanese?
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Old 02-28-2006, 03:59 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by igor
I never thought Ford (FoMoCo) had troubles.. the worst that could happen to FoMoCo, is for F/L/M closing bussiness in the US and Ford of Europe simply expanding to USDM and just becoming a German import

And yeah he did say clusterf--k and I agree... Ford is in SO much better position than GM with their global operations...

Igor

HA.. I thought so.... I agree with Ford being in a great possition with foreign operations, bu they are heavily lacking domestically.

That last statment reminds me of that commercial with the SUVs turning to dust..... I weap for GM, a single tear of malice.
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Old 02-28-2006, 04:20 PM   #10
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the overseas market is booming for ford and we will always have ford maybe not in this country in the next decade but gm doesent have the overseas market like ford does, ford will be able to stay alot longer because they have the support of a much larger worldwide company
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