It may not be readily apparent, but General Motors is undergoing a significant transition — all over the world. Because of this, and whether it’s apparent or not The General is in a state of flux, whether by choice or by force. Here are the top areas that are undergoing a transformation:
Chevy Goes Global
With the exception of the Oceania geographic market, where Holden reigns supreme, Chevrolet is finally becoming the mainstream global brand it always should have been. And with this newfound global availability, Chevy vehicles are also becoming globalized. No longer is GM offering two (or even three) completely unrelated offerings in different countries, as it did with the Cobalt and Lacetti or Malibu and Tosca/Epica, among others. Simply put, products designed for the global market are better in every way — and the fact that GM’s focus is on Chevy around the world couldn’t come at a better time, especially as Ford makes a very strong push for a global lineup.
Ironically, it’s possible that the Saturn and Pontiac brands needed to have been discontinued, and Opel/Vauxhall almost sold off, in order for GM to realize the inherent value of at least one global brand. Ford (again?) seems to know all about it.
Chevy Still Filling In Gaps
Even though Chevy is globalizing its lineup, it still has several holes in its lineup. In North America, for instance, one can’t purchase a compact hatch (Cruze hatch) or a compact coupe (130R or 140S, anyone?). And the crossover lineup is missing a compact offering, which may be coming, but could be a size too small. Note that all of Chevy’s other competitors are already offering vehicles in these segments. At least Chevy’s got high-quality, competitive vehicles in the high-volume segments, including sub-compact, compact, and mid-sized sedans; but a full-line automaker should offer a full line of vehicles, shouldn’t it?
Cadillac Repositions As Red-Blooded Performance
As Chevy explores its newfound global presence, Cadillac has nearly completed its transformation from a brand known for making the best “couches on wheels” to a red-blooded performance luxury marque whose products rival the best from Germany. The transformation isn’t complete just yet, though, but will be before the end of the decade — with the most important and voluminous segments taking priority over the more niche areas (full-sized rear-wheel drive flagship, for instance).
The only area of concern for The Wreath and Crest brand is globalization: currently, more than 90 percent of the brand’s sales come from North America. Europe and China are the brand’s next frontiers.
GMC Seeks Differentiation
The GMC brand, which for years mysteriously sold rebadged Chevy trucks and SUVs, seems to finally be on the right track towards building a district personality independent of The Bow Tie. From what we hear, the next-generation of all-new full-sized trucks will bring the first true dose of differentiation to Big Red, with the vehicles not being badged-up clones of the Silverado, Tahoe, or Suburban. Some of this differentiation is even seen in the recently-freshened full-sized crossovers: the 2013 GMC Acadia looks very different from its platform mate, the 2013 Chevy Traverse. Now if it only drove distinctively like a GMC…
In the next few years, GMC may end up moving upmarket and cease competing/overlapping with Chevy altogether. That would surely be nice.
Buick, Opel Remain Question Marks
Whereas the future General Motors directly hinges on the sales and related financial performance of Chevrolet and Cadillac, the futures of Buick and Opel/Vauxhall aren’t entirely clear. It’s widely known that Opel/Vauxhall is losing money, to the tune of $700 million in 2011, while Buick seems to be at odds in deciding whether it’s a luxury brand… or not. The uncertainty should get straightened out sooner rather than later, as Buick and Opel will reportedly begin to share an increased amount of vehicles, starting with the Regal/Insignia and Encore/Mokka.
Corporate Redundancies Somewhat Eliminated
It’s no secret that “Old GM” had layers upon layers of management — resulting in painfully long times to finalize decisions; the “New GM” is leaner, and more efficient, but according to some insiders, the company is still not as agile as some prominent competitors — or hasn’t changed as much internally as some previously thought. Will the transitionary period result in the removal of the “non-value-adding” layers? We’ve yet to see.
Brands Are Still The Focus
In the past, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, etc. were divisions within General Motors. Each had its own set of product planners, engineers and designers. And each division was responsible for its own market share and financial performance. Today, Chevy, Buick, GMC, and Caddy are brands — not divisions — and engineering, design, and product planning is centrally carried out by GM. Whether the overarching approach to the organizational structure will change over time is anyone’s guess at this point, but following in the shoes of today’s most successful mainstream and luxury players — namely VW-Audi and Toyota-Lexus — it’s apparent that a hybrid system incorporating divisions and brands seems to work best — retaining brand values and identity while avoiding unnecessary duplicate costs.
So there you have it — the biggest aspects of General Motors undergoing a transformation, whether initiated by GM at will, or forced upon the company by industry and market pressures. Upon completing these major transformational revamps, The General common sense would dictate that The General will come out stronger and more competitive than ever. Until then, all we can do is wait and enjoy the range of currently-available products.