Cadillac Cimarron: Never again.

There is a saying that nothing runs poorer longer than an old GM.  In more recent years, the same could be said for General Motors itself.  As Chevrolet celebrates its 100th birthday and the world waxes nostalgic about it, let’s look toward its future.

Chevrolet chose the “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign to kick off its post-bailout future.  Unfortunately, Chevy runs deep only for those who grew up unbelted in the back seat of one (in one position or another).  Scores of those people then turned en mass to foreign vehicles into which they put their own securely buckled children.  Those children now show up in dealerships online with Chevy running about as deep in their veins as a Jersey Shore plot line. The first commercial featuring this slogan starred senior citizens in a nursing home.  It was like an advertising Freudian slip.

Chevrolet can’t look toward the past in order to sell the future.  Consider that millions of people around the world, many of them young, line up for days to purchase a new Apple product before it even hits the shelves.  Not a single one is doing so because they remember playing with an iPad 2 when they were 5 years-old.  So how does Chevy keep the headlights on? (Besides selling Buicks to the Chinese like plastic surgeons selling their services in Hollywood)


1. Only allow women to design, source, and build vehicle interiors. GM actually took the initiative on this one when they hired Anne Asensio to give them desperately, desperately, desperately needed help in the interior design department.  True story: My mother owned the same car for 16 years (non-GM).  When it finally became time to replace her beloved car, she went straight to the dealer to buy the updated model.  After sitting in her new car for the first time (note to reader: crying makes for a very good negotiating tactic), she looked around the interior for 0.3 seconds, touched the steering wheel, and then said, “This car is junk”.  It took less than one second after 16 years of blissful ownership for her to dislike her new car based solely on sitting in it.  Mothers are always right, hire them.

2.  No executive is allowed to drive a new car. It drives me crazy to see automobile executives driving the newest and most expensive cars its company sells.  GM executives need to drive what the majority of its current and potential customers drive – a 10 year-old car with around 100,000 miles on it.  If every pre-bailout GM executive drove a 10 year-old Oldsmobile Achieva, they might still have a job.

3.  All managers must learn to fight.  Boxing, mixed martial arts, hand-to-hand combat techniques – whatever it takes to stoke an aggressive disposition (toward the competition, not one another).  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t achieve catharsis or “getting your anger out” by hitting things.  You become more aggressive.  Enough with the benchmarking, fight to become the benchmark.

4.  Make turning around against company policy. No turning around in offices, meetings, hallways, parking lots, and certainly not while driving.  Every employee must always look forward.  If they turn around, they might see a Chevy Chevette, Cadillac Cimarron, or any Pontiac with enough non-recyclable plastic glued to it to make even Rush Limbaugh blush.  The future is one-way only.  Look that way.

5. Change the bowtie for non-truck vehicles. This last suggestion is admittedly the most controversial, but to me, the gold-colored bowtie is psychologically soiled.  Every time I see it, I have an immediate negative emotional reaction.  It’s automatic.  For so many years, that bowtie adorned some pretty bad cars.  In fact, a lot of the time it wasn’t even gold, it was just embossed in bad plastics.  I know it’s iconic, but I would love to see it updated, much like Chevy is doing with some wonderful new products.



If I were to suggest that the best way for an automobile manufacturer to increase sales of a particular vehicle is to fit it with a relatively small base engine, downgrade the interior materials from the previous version, and refrain from making the design stand out from the crowd, would you agree?  Someone at Volkswagen made such suggestions during the development of the new Jetta…and it happens to be working quite well.

June 2011 sales of the Jetta were up 88% from last year.  Moreover, TDI diesel Jettas accounted for nearly one quarter of those sales, up 121%.  Therefore, not only is Volkswagen getting Americans to buy more of their compact cars, they are getting them to buy more of their diesel compact cars.  Unglaublich!
Why?  Although I am most interested in your comments, I have two suggestions:
1. CONFORMITY (or lack thereof) – Many of us like to think of ourselves as non-conformists, even though the evidence suggests otherwise (e.g., you probably ate your cereal this morning with a spoon, drove to work on the appropriate side of the road, and, unless you live in Los Angeles, didn’t shoot anyone on your drive into the office).  However, the compact car segment is known for ubiquity, not exclusivity.  Therefore, one possibility is that owners of the new Jetta view it as a greater expression of individuality compared to other stalwarts of the compact car segment, such as the Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.  In other words, Jettas, and by extension the people that drive them, may be seen as an uncommon choice in a segment seemingly rife with commonality.
Do Jetta owners value individuality more than owners of other cars in the same segment?  Do they consider themselves to be less conforming than other compact car owners?  The answers may be important because, if the evidence indicates that individuality matters comparatively more to Jetta owners, then it would be ironic that Volkswagen is aiming to dramatically increase overall sales.  One possible implication going forward would be for Volkswagen to reinforce the notion that the Jetta still stands out from the crowd, even as an increasing number of them join it.
2. IMAGE – Image may not be everything, but research suggests that we do our best to maintain a positive self-image.  In turn, people who purchase the new Jetta may believe that it better projects their image than other segment rivals.  For example, Jetta owners may want to be associated with the Jetta’s German engineering roots, as well as its relatively sophisticated stable mates, such as the GTI, Passat, and Touareg (not to mention some of its cousins, such as Audi, Porsche, Bentley, and Lamborghini).  Although the exterior styling has been described by some as dull, it’s tailored and will probably age well.  While the new Hyundai Elantra may be more visually stimulating, the Jetta may come across as more sophisticated.
Do owners of the new Jetta want to project a different image than owners of comparable models?  Are they drawn to the European background and what it may say about them?

Journalists may have been relatively ungenerous with their automotive praise, but car buyers are so far bucking their reviews.  In a way, it’s refreshingly different.  Perhaps that is what Jetta owners feel about their new cars.