General Motors – potential phoenix from the ashes
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Source: Thomas Geiger
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Everyone says GM got it all wrong. Gone are the days when more than one in two Americans drove a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick or Cadillac. But probably not forever. Because the group continues to fulfill the wishes of its customers today and is better positioned for the future than you think.
E.There were times when General Motors (GM) threw superlatives almost as much as it did with money. GM was the most powerful industrial group in the world and thus also the largest automaker overall. More than every second American in the 1950s and 1960s was behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Buick or Cadillac. General Motors is the epitome of the “American Way of Drive” and has grown into the country like Coca-Cola.
Today the auto giant, to which the German manufacturer Opel belongs, is making the headlines with less gratifying top performances: CEO Rick Wagoner had to report the biggest slump in sales and the highest loss of all time in the past quarter. At 20 percent, GM has the lowest US market share in its history, and shares are cheaper than ever. Bankruptcy threatens.
The reasons for this are obviously known to everyone: there is always talk of sleepy trends and automotive monoculture, particularly heavy, petrol-thirsty SUVs and pick-ups are scourged. General Motors did nothing more than build exactly the means of transport that the US customer demanded. First and foremost, their car must be large and comfortable and be able to transport a lot on the way between job and suburban home. The American is mobile, also because of the low fuel prices. “For decades the fuel was so cheap that the tank could be filled with a few dollars. Something like that shapes ”, says Jurgen Pieper, auto analyst at Bankhaus Metzler.
The registration figures from November show how strong the coinage is. In the middle of the crisis, GM customers opted for a pick-up almost ten times more often than for a compact car. The flatbed models Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra brought it together to 40,031 units, the small Chevrolet Aveo (similar to a VW Polo) and the Saturn Astra (corresponds to the German Opel Astra) came to only 4427 units.
Perhaps this is also because the gallon of gasoline (3.78 liters) is available for less than two dollars again – the price has almost halved from the highs in the summer. If you still want to drive economically, you will definitely find what you are looking for at GM. There are 18 cars on offer that consume less than eight liters per 100 kilometers on the highway. When it comes to hybrids, too, GM is at the forefront and not Toyota. “GM will soon have eight hybrid models on the road, more than any other car manufacturer,” says automotive economist Ferdinand Dudenhoffer from the University of Duisburg-Essen. These include off-road vehicles with the so-called two-mode system, which can save up to 50 percent on petrol in the city.
The high-tech hybrid transmission was developed together with Daimler and BMW. Mercedes will equip the M-Class with it, BMW the X6, but both models are not expected before the end of the year. GM, on the other hand, is rapidly expanding its hybrid range. In the spring, the group will offer its bestseller Silverado as the world’s first pick-up with a combination of an electric and gasoline engine.
The Saturn Vue, the American version of the Opel Antara, is a two-mode hybrid with a start-stop system and front-wheel drive. The consumption in the city is less than eight liters per 100 kilometers. The Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu sedans are also already available as mild hybrids (highway consumption 6.9 liters). They cost around $ 26,000, and the state is also giving $ 1,300 as a tax bonus.
At the same time, GM wants to revive the culture of the so-called muscle cars: Production of the Chevrolet Camaro begins in the spring, and it hardly differs optically from its model from the 1960s. The coupe version of the Pontiac Solstice roadster, powered by a small but powerful Ecotec four-cylinder, is also considered a “sexy car”. The Saturn Sky, which corresponds to the Opel GT, is knitted according to the same pattern.
The allegations that GM are only building boredom pressed into sheet metal are not justified. The company may have a few more black sheep among its 93 models than others. And even the large off-road vehicles have not earned a design award, but a class below it is more pleasing. The Chevrolet Traverse offers a well-proportioned design and, on top of that, a high level of variability. The same applies to the new Cadillac SRX, which will roll out to dealers in the middle of the year. The Chevrolet Malibu received the title “North American Car of the Year” from the US car magazine “Car and Driver” and cuts a fine figure alongside the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
The award also shows that GM has workmanship and materials under control again. One should not forget: General Motors has been building American cars for American customers for 100 years. And for them two large cup holders are more important than the gap between the glove compartment and the dashboard. How much trust GM places in its products is shown by the warranty periods, which German car buyers can only marvel at: five years or 160,000 kilometers.
However, it is uncertain whether this will be enough to attract enough customers again. Even when fuel prices have fallen, buyers hold back. However, this is also felt by the competitors. “One of the main reasons for the slump in sales is the current financial situation. The banks are hesitant about granting loans for new cars, ”says car analyst Jurgen Pieper. "This accelerates the downward spiral."
In addition, it is important that the image of the GM brands is tarnished. If you want to own a reliable car, buy a Toyota, Mazda or Honda. If you don’t want to do without luxury, choose a German brand.
But what plagues the once most powerful automaker in the world is an agreement with the UAW (United Auto Workers) union. After that, GM will have to pay medical bills, medication, and hospital treatment for more than a million current and former employees plus their loved ones. This devours about seven billion dollars a year. Another superlative that GM boss Rick Wagoner would like to do without.
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