GM – Are they telling it like it is?

bg_gm.jpgThe boys are back! This week, the big three automakers are back in Washington jetless and armed with plans for round two of the bailout chronicles. Before heading to D.C., Ray Young, CFO of GM, made his case on GM’s Facts and Fiction (GM Tells It Like It Is) blog in a last-ditch effort to restore flagging confidence during this “credit crisis.”

Welcome to the era of crisis management. Props to GM as they use the tools of social media to try and avoid hitting the wall. It won’t be good that the U.S. automakers collapse—I heard on NPR that one in ten jobs in the U.S. is auto-related. But just like seeing slashings of 40% off at luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman on Black Friday, the world has run amuck. And Detroit isn’t the only thing off its axis.

Everyone has chimed in about the U.S. auto industry, from Seth Godin calling for less monopoly and more competition to Michael Moore just hootin’ and hollering. All in all, not ideal that Ford, GM and Chrysler potentially to be curbed, but truth be told, consumer confidence and sales have been declining long before the credit crisis. How will bailing them out change things?

So the big three’s head honchos are talking about $1 for 2009 compensation, and the UAW finally reasonable and willing to make long-needed concessions to have its workers become competitive—domestically and globally. It’s a start. There’s also the plan to rebrand GM as green and energy efficient, which ties into the greater branding trend… okay, they’re just a decade late. And that is why they suffer–the credit crisis just exposed their mistakes. We’ve got a massive conglomerate that chased bottom lines rather than following a branding strategy that responded to its consumers and marketed products that work. Instead, we were handed the dictatorial “Buy America, for America.” The emperor’s marketing’s got no clothes—and someone’s finally telling him.

Collectively the U.S. auto industry spends about $6 billion annually in advertising, and yet for all that spending, market share pales to foreign makers. Toyota, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Honda, Volkswagen, Audi and Hyundai all held or bettered their positions on Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 100 List. (Ford slipped, but GM and Chrysler were nowhere to be found). The fact is that the big three haven’t done a heck of a good job at branding its brands or serving the U.S. markets.

Now, for all intensive purposes, the big three can be considered start-ups. Just like discount coupons, handouts and the notion of roommates, the stigma of bankruptcy is being redefined. Maybe we need to tell the boys to take a number and get in line…

Filed: branding

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