First, a caveat. This post is from a marketing and branding perspective. Employment considerations are an entirely different matter. I’ve been laid off and I would not wish it on anyone.
Would anyone miss (insight from Seth Godin here and here) any of the traditional Big Three US automakers if they were gone? No, really. Do you hear anyone screaming “I can’t live without my next Ford (or Chrysler or GM)?”
I don’t. If two of them went away, and you still wanted to buy an American car, you could easily move to the remaining one and get the same basic brand experience.
On the other hand, can you imagine the outcry if BMW was at risk? You would hear the screams from the rooftops. That’s because BMW drivers truly believe that no other car drives like a BMW. BMW drivers are stark raving fans – and for good reason. Their experiences bear out the brand’s claims.
Not so, for Detroit’s dinosaurs. They keep pushing the idea that they’re just as good as Toyota and Honda (bad sign when you have to benchmark against your competitors) but nobody’s buying. Because the majority perception in the marketplace – where consumers are now each other’s experts – is that US automakers don’t match up to their foreign-owned counterparts. And it’s going to take more than a $25 billion bailout to change that market dynamic. Unless they change the game
One solution would be for them to merge into one company, scrap all but the absolute best performing models, use the American-made positioning to sell against the foreign-owned marques where it has true value and put all the money saved and all their best engineers to work on becoming a leader in next generation personal transportation.
That’s one solution for these three tired, old school brands. There are probably better ones. But one thing is painfully clear – they need to wake up to the fact that the world has left them behind and nothing short of revolutionary thinking is going to make them vital again.