Some news articles caught my eye in the wake of my opinion on Holden from a few days ago. In that article, I suggested that Holden might end up being too small for GM to keep what is basically a one-country brand.
First, from this week’s autoextremist op-ed:
Let’s face it, GM has Cadillac and Chevrolet. Yes, Buick has its primary role in China and GMC has its place in North America but make no mistake, the future of GM lies in the global success of Cadillac and Chevrolet.
Of course, GM also has Opel (for the time being, at least) but they’ve already introduced the Chevrolet brand into Europe selling a level below Opel. It would be a natural strategy to now push Opel slightly upmarket but European customers are unlikely to let them do that. Opel is Opel. It is to European customers what Chevrolet is to American customers and I don’t think American customers are going to see Chevy as a player in the premium market any time soon.
The entry-level Chevrolet strategy outside the US is to put a bowtie on products designed by GM’s Asian subsidiary, Daewoo. They’re typically made in low-cost countries in either Asia or Eastern Europe and then sold more broadly. Then they add some more sophisticated products based on global designs (Cruze, Captiva, Camaro, Corvette) if the market’s rich enough to pay for them.
Right now, Holden is basically Chevrolet but with a different name. With it’s market share declining, a key dependence on the Commodore for its links to Holden’s past and no commitment to future Commodores beyond the upcoming VF model, it would seem to me that it’s a simple matter of marketing economics that will decide if and when Chevrolet takes over Holden in Australia.
I mentioned Opel coming to Australia in my article earlier this week. It’s one of the real interesting developments for GM-watchers here.
Opel are being pitched as entry-level European vehicles. They’re not in the European luxury classes with the usual Teutonic suspects, but they’re definitely being pitched at a level above the basic Europeans and all the generic Asian brands.
So you have Holden and then a half-step up to Opel. Presumably, that’s the strategy.
So what are we to make of the Autoextremist’s claims about Cadillac’s global success also being pivotal to GM’s future? You might think he’s theorising, but he’s not.
From Autoblog, today:
General Motors has created the new position of global vice president for Cadillac. Stepping into that new role is GM senior executive and top lobbyist Robert E. Ferguson, who will oversee global growth and development of the luxury brand.
Ferguson is responsible for marketing, brand management and advertising for Cadillac around the world and is also expected to be responsible for sales in the new year. He will report directly to CEO Dan Akerson, who said of Ferguson, “The Cadillac brand will hit a higher gear under his watch.”
And from Daniel Howes at the Detroit News:
Cadillac is going global — again.
Like an aging rock star, General Motors Co.’s luxury brand is plotting yet another comeback on the world stage, this time led by a telecommunications exec-turned-Washington lobbyist theoretically armed with a strong Cadillac lineup. I can hear the chortling all the way from Munich and Stuttgart, where they’ve seen this show several times before.
Could the ending be any different?
It could, if GM and the masters of Cadillac can replicate effectively the kind of long-term product development discipline and aggressive brand management the automaker and its rival, Ford Motor Co., devote to their lines of full-size pickups. If not — and there’s a decent chance of that, considering past efforts — Cadillac-goes-global will be yet another laugher across the industry.
So once again, GM plan on filling your market with a vehicle for every purse and purpose. It won’t be like the old days, thank goodness, but the extra brand focus needed for a serious tilt at such a plan will likely put little Holden’s future even closer under the microscope.
And Opel? Who knows. The way things are going between GM and the German unions, anything could happen. I think it’s a miracle they’ve made it here at all.