GM's Rick Wagoner Takes PR Swing Through SoCal
Steve Harris, General Motors’ Vice President of Communications, is known for aggressively getting the company’s message out. Last week the General Motors corporate jet was hopping around Southern California. Rick Wagoner, GM’s Chairman was aboard with an entourage of varying size depending on where they were going. As near as we can judge, he was in Los Angeles on Monday having an seance with the Los Angeles Times and other media types.
On Tuesday morning he jetted up to Bakersfield to open a new $10 million facility for a top Chevrolet dealer there. On Tuesday afternoon he was talking to a bunch of researchers and analysts in a LAX airport hotel. Heck, even ol’ Dave Power, scion of J.D. Power & Associates, was there. Jim Hossack and George Peterson represented AutoPacific.
Wouldn’t Want Wagoner’s Schedule on a Bet
Following the analysts’ discussion and an afternoon of more activities, they hopped back on their jet and were to land in Detroit the following morning at 430AM. And, lo and belold, Wagoner was next seen on the following day in Traverse City announcing the new Camaro. Man, wouldn’t want his schedule.
Wagoner began with a short download on how GM is doing today. He readily admits that they have a lot of work to do in their publicly announced restructuring, but contends that they have made good progress. They are “well ahead” of their objective to reduce hourly head count that is “expensive, but necessary”. A fifty-minute Question and Answer session followed. Wagoner seemed honest and forthright, not spinning the usual transparent BS that comes so often from company heads.
Kerkorian and Renault/Nissan Nicely… Ummmmm, Avoided
Wouldn’t talk about the potential relationship with Renault and Nissan but admitted that there may be some synergies on the product and purchasing side of the business. While you know this is really on the top of his mind, “Can’t talk about it”. Wagoner did say that the teams working on the issue would be reporting in about 60 days. That puts it in early October.
Saturn Repositioning on the Horizon
One of the more interesting discussions was on the repositioning of Saturn. After being neglected and starved ever since its launch, Saturn is about to become a very important part of the General Motors portfolio. Appealing to lowest common denominator buyers who generally thought of a car as a necessary evil and bought through Saturn because it was easy, Saturn became a cipher in the market. In the coming months, Saturn adds the mid-size and more upscale Aura, the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid, the high performance Vue Red Line (Vue is Saturn’s SUV). In addition to the Aura, perhaps the most important addition to the Saturn lineup is the Lambda crossover vehicle – the Outlook. The Outlook is a large crossover with distinctive styling – even though it shares its platform with the GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.
Wagoner cautions Saturn dealers, however, not to expect bargain basement pricing anymore. Saturn evolves into a General Motors’ premium brand along with Cadillac, HUMMER and Saab. This will be an interesting one to watch.