Monday, March 30, 2009

Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty. General Motors is free at last.

It's not that General Motors product management ignores new product ideas that have a 97% top two box intent to purchase score among import-minded and domestic car buyers in bread and butter and higher margin luxury segments. It's not that they ignore those ideas even though they were presented with enough lead time to address current market conditions. You knew General Motors is/was really in trouble when letters on the subject sent to CEO Rick Wagoner went totally ignored. When those letters never reached his desk. When those letters were redirected by staff to underlings powerless to do anything about them - and who didn't have a care in the world about addressing company saving information further. But more importantly, you knew Genberal Motors is/was really in trouble when you followed up on those letters and you were told to call back because it takes Rick Wagoner's or any staffer's office five days just to acknowledge receipt of that letter. Way too slow in the information age and marketplace. If it takes five days just to log in a letter, imagine how slowly the organization responds to doing important work - like developing and properly marketing the products people want.

The answer isn't cost-cutting, delaying health benefit and pension plan disbursements or renegotiating union contracts and worker pay. Those are all the solution of linear thinking managements. The answer, rather than ignoring what people want and making what GM wants is to make what people want, not what trend forecasters say will sell. That's how GM and Detroit got stuck with all those SUVs. The problem is the results are , well, just too general. Not creative. Not abstract and interesting. Like one ex-head of GM strategy told me time and time again, "No one was/is going to save General Motors single handedly." Wagoner's ouster verifies that; but does it? He's been with the firm since 1977; steeped in the corporations culture so deeply that he never stood a chance. And that's the problem for other insiders. So if I were President Barak Obama, I'd bring in an outsider like Jim Sinegal who knows how to get things done at the speed of Kirkland as the CEO of Costco. Humble, efficient, a cracker-jack manager and he knows how to sell pallets of product everyday. Just the kind of volume General Motors needs. And you know what? American consumers are predisposed to want to buy cars a new way. We knew that 20 years ago. And GM didn't like the dealers either - always looking for new ways to eliminate those lengthy obligations, Abandon the dealers, streamline the pipeline and let people just order cars the way they shop for any other consumer good. Here's my credit card. Here's my down payment and my permission to automatically deduct each payment over the next 36 month. Kind of gets rid of the people with the bad credit and the whole finance infrastructure. Not needed to make the second most expensive purchase in your life today.

Why not take Saturn and make it the Kirkland brand. That'd be an interesting test! Then of course, there's my other solution for GM. Stop building cars altogether, lease the brand names to Toyota and let Toyota make the products in exchange for a payment on each and every sale to GM. What then to do with GM? Easy! Clean slate. Start over. Invent new product lines and brands. Sound hard? Not at all. At one time American's only had sticky paste and roll-ons as antiperspirants and deodorants. Then we invented a new form; Mennen Speed Stick; the first solid antiperspirant and still the most popular item in the category today. Just takes a little abstract thinking to determine what people want before they know they need it; then give it to them. Plenty of people happy to get paid $48 an hour to build cars since receiving their pink slips from the Japanese auto companies too.

1 comment:

Ju said...

Hopeless: Fights are breaking out over Michigan in response to layoffs spurned by Obama's choice for bankruptcy above all other options. Watch video: