GM recall means GM is different, not better

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

12 March 2014

Living up – or down – to your brand promise

Jeez. I have said this before and I will say it until an automobile manufacturer listens to me: There is no difference between any of you.

Well, except for General Motors now.

As you remember, all of us taxpayers once owned a part of GM when it came to light that it was basically insolvent. Now, it is coming to light that GM may have been withholding information concerning the safety of some 1.4 million 2003-2007 autos because of faulty ignition switches.

“As brands, the only thing manufacturers claim is ‘we build cars.'”


GM recallJust to illustrate the seriousness of the recall, GM says, if you have to drive one of the affected vehicles, only use a single key in the ignition as the weight of anything else may cause a malfunction. So the folks still driving a 2003 model have basically been playing Russian roulette for more than 10 years.

Get thee to a dealer!

For the most part, car companies have become one homogenized mess. While the manufacturers themselves may say there is differentiation, any differentiation that exists is only in some of the individual models. Even in those cases, the differences are paper thin. As brands, the only thing manufacturers claim is “we build cars.”

Just to illustrate, “the new GM” says that its five principles guide everything it does:

  • Safety and Quality first
  • Create lifelong customers
  • Innovate
  • Deliver long-term investment value
  • Make a positive difference

Pretty vanilla, even for a car company. Would Ford, Honda, Chrysler not fit these principles as well? Furthermore, let’s say for argument, that GM knew about this problem before last month when it initiated the recall. By my estimation, it has failed in at least four of these principles with a single event.

Is this the “new GM” as it claims? If GM really believed and lived up to the five principles, it would not have taken 11 years to initiate a GM recall.

It seems to me that GM is at the beginning of having to deal with two brand problems: 1. Brand repair, and 2. Creating real brand meaning.

On the bright side for GM, repairing a brand is a lot easier if you are repositioning your brand. That is, rebranding, which necessitates going beyond a simple advertising tag line or some superficial window dressing, should fundamentally change the way you conduct business both internally and externally. If you really do that, brand repair is encompassed in rebranding the organization. Changing advertising agencies is not going to be enough here, General Motors.

Even if nothing comes out of this recall issue, GM still has a problem – but so do the most other car companies. They lack brand meaning.

Until they take a step back and honestly evaluate themselves instead of using a recycled carousel of industry insiders, they will continue to reinvent themselves using the same mold as the last time. What’s the saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”

GM and all the automobile manufacturers should take note.

See more posts in the following related categories: Auto GM recall


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