The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

22 August 2006

Found on road, dying

Charlie Hughes and William Jeanes are two names I know well. Hughes was the president of Mazda during its transformation from an also-ran Japanese nameplate to a recognized purveyor of Zoom Zoom, and Jeanes was perhaps the sanest editor of Car and Driver ever. In their forthcoming book Branding Iron: Branding Lessons from the Meltdown of the US Auto Industry, the guys offer a restructuring plan for Ford that goes way beyond anything Dearborn can possibly imagine. Some of the details:

  • Three brands: mainstream, near-luxury, high-end. Ford, Volvo, Jaguar. Everyone else has got to go. BMW would probably take Land Rover back, and Mazda might well want to be free of blue-oval influence. Aston Martin surely would find a taker. And Lincoln-Mercury? "They spend $300 million a year to flog Lincoln and Mercury, says Hughes, "and what kind of return are they getting on that?"

  • Move out of Dearborn and away from all those people named Ford. Chicago would work.

  • Adopt one standard, companywide: "We build the best cars for the money in any segment you might want."

Ford might actually spin off one of their British marques, but anything beyond that seems unlikely. Still, the people who are eating Detroit's lunch — Toyota and Honda, mostly — seem to be getting by with a mere two brands apiece. Ford, now sandwiched between them in size, can't be reasonably expected to sustain eight.

(Via Autoblog.)

Posted at 8:00 AM to Driver's Seat

I've been wondering about the multiplicity of motor divisions since the late '70s, when the only thing distinguishing a Chevy from a Pontiac from a Buick from an Oldsmobile from, in some cases, even a Cadillac, was the motor division's name on the fender.

And I never did understand why it took GM so long to finally have GMC call its biggest enclosed truck something other than what Chevy had been calling theirs since the 1930s.

Posted by: McGehee at 12:02 PM on 22 August 2006

I figured they thought the term was sorta generic; even Plymouth had Suburbans in the 1950s. (Ad scan here.)

I personally think the General could get by with three domestic nameplates: Chevy at the low end, Cadillac at the top, and pick one for the middle. (Buick makes more sense from a theoretical marketing standpoint, since it sort of bridges the gap between the two; Pontiac makes more sense in the real world, because its buyers aren't actually dead yet. So if it comes down to this, they'll probably pick Saturn.)

Posted by: CGHill at 1:02 PM on 22 August 2006

I gave GM's situation some thought after originally reading this post, and I too wondered about Saturn. My wife might be downcast over the brand's demise, though she no longer yearns to own one.

Seems to me if it's such a "different" car company, and if it's been doing so much better than, say, Oldsmobile, shouldn't GM be applying the same practices corpus-wide?

The answer, of course, seems to be that while Saturn may be doing better than Oldsmobile was, it ain't doing that well.

Posted by: McGehee at 1:27 PM on 22 August 2006