Exhaust Note #2: GM’s Comeback Trail

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Much has been made of the recent onslaught of really great cars and trucks from General Motors. It’s particularly amazing for me, an automotive analyst in his thirties, to witness. You see, until very recently, GM – for my whole life – has always been the perpetual underachieving giant; in many ways a symbol of everything wrong with Detroit. I grew up in the 1970s and 1980s – a time when more and more of my generation’s Baby Boomer parents were abandoning GM clunkers in favor of far higher quality imports. Even throughout my adult years, GM hardly represented the “Mark of Excellence” its corporate slogan claimed. As long as I could remember, GM products (large trucks excepted) were rarely world class; in my mind, price and patriotism were the only real reasons to buy them.
For the last year and a half, however, I’ve been forced to rethink this notion that had been one of the true constants in my life. Beautifully rendered and engineered vehicles that truly needed no excuses began to trickle from GM factories. Truly drool-worthy GM cars began showing up in real dealerships, not just the auto show turntables. It has truly been an amazing experience to witness all this happen before my eyes.

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As I sat down this morning at my desk to catch up on the news, I read a small blurb in Automotive News that said that the new (and highly acclaimed) Chevrolet Malibu and Cadillac CTS were barely boosting GM conquests. In other words, the article was stating that the percentage of new Malibu and CTS owners who traded in non-GM vehicles (particularly imports) had hardly risen from the same period two years ago. Or put yet another way, owners of these two award-winning vehicles were the same GM loyalists that kept these model lines afloat in the past.
Give it some time, I say. Import owners’ perceptions of GM won’t change overnight, no matter how good the product. It will take years of excellent product and steadfast consistency before GM can hope for a significant exodus of excited consumers back into the GM fold. I sincerely hope that GM can continue to keep its sharp focus and commitment long enough (and long after Lutz has retired) to make this happen.
In the meantime, it’s an exciting time to go to the auto shows and see what latest and greatest products GM has up its sleeves. This week marks the beginning of the 100th Chicago Auto Show, one of the biggest auto shows in the nation (we’ll be there this week, of course). It’s particularly noteworthy that over half of all the new vehicle and concept introductions will be from General Motors.
In light of this GM buzz, we’ve got some pretty cool GM content for VehicleVoice this week, including two interviews with key Corvette ZR-1 development staff and a walkaround of the gorgeous Buick Riviera concept car with the esteemed Mark Phelan of the Detroit Free Press. Also, be sure to check in as we bring you our coverage of the major unveilings from the 2008 Chicago Auto Show.
Till next time…

Posted in: Exhaust Note, GM

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