GM will shrink to four core brands in North America

Henderson’s appointment as GM’s North American chief makes the future of several other high-ranking execs uncertain

Henderson’s appointment as GM’s North American chief makes the future of several other high-ranking execs uncertain

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One of General Motors’ biggest criticisms is the number of different brands under its roof, which ends up seeing it sell similar models that often compete with one another in the same segments. In its efforts to secure its share of a federal bailout, GM said it now intends to focus its U.S. product and marketing resources on four core brands, namely Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac and GMC. These four brands accounted for 83% of GM's total sales volume in the United States last year.

That leaves Hummer, Saab, Saturn and Pontiac in an uneasy state. GM has already confirmed that it is looking for a buyer for its Hummer brand, and that Saturn was also under review. Pontiac, meanwhile, is expected to be reduced to just a few models, while Saab could also be sold-off or axed altogether.

Speaking with Automotive News, GM COO Fritz Henderson said the company is conducting a strategic review of its Saab and Hummer brands and that the "status quo" for the Saturn brand will not work. "We need to do something different with Saturn," he said.

As for Saab, Henderson confirmed that GM was working with the Swedish government to help the brand remain viable, however, he stressed that Saab was “not a U.S. strategy.”

Pontiac, meanwhile, will "shrink substantially," Henderson said. Speaking at the Detroit Auto Show last week, GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz also said Pontiac will eventually be reduced to just five models – the G8, G5, Vibe, Solstice and Solstice Coupe.

Part of GM’s downsizing efforts will also see its 6,600 dealer network shrunk to around 4,700 dealers by 2012.

Finally, Henderson warned that if GM doesn’t receive the $5.4 billion second instalment in government aid the carmaker would run out of money by March. The payment was originally due last week but was delayed by this week’s change in administration.
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Comments (15)
  1. GM is getting closer to accepting reality.

  2. This sounds good for business' sake, but why keep Buick instead of Pontiac? Surely Pontiac has a much more appealing brand image and lineup at this point. And it's too bad that I guess we'll never see the Insignia here since it looks as though Saturn is being cut. But as far as Hummer and Saab goes, good riddance!

  3. Buick is doing very well in Asia as a luxury brand. To axe it would mean GM would have to start from scratch in that emerging market.

    Do a google search for buick china and you'll see what I mean.

  4. Yeah, I know the title is "in North America," but with the exception of the models noted above, most Pontiacs have been re-branded Chevys anyway haven't they?

  5. If Pontiac survives as a sports car brand (G8, Solstice, GTO), I won't worry. But killing Saturn is wasting Opel's lineup. Just add the next-gen Corsa, two sub-Equinox crossovers and that's it. If Chevy and Opel can stand each other together in Europe, why can't Chevy and Saturn in North America?

  6. I guess this is my last Saab, seems innovation comes too little too late on otherwise a good niche brand.

  7. Remeber Oldsmobile?

  8. Hopefully they'll find a buyer for Saab (and Hummer - I hate them but it's a strong brand). As far as Buick goes, SPG900NY hit the nail on the head: they're big in China. I think they're being pretty stupid with Pontiac, though. It either is a brand or it isn't! Oldsmobile showed that they lack the commitment to market a brand with only a couple of models, so sooner or later it will either cannibalize sales again OR it will be killed, so just get rid of it already!
    Finally, there's Saturn. There's no reason why they can't use Opel underpinnings in Chevrolets. I think the current Saturn ad indicates that this is a brand without a past and without a future. It shows a guy walking into a Saturn dealership and being very confused about what he sees. The perky young receptionist (do car dealerships really have those?) says something like, "oh yes, we get a lot of double-takes - no-one really knows what Saturn is doing these days!" Exactly. Even Saturn commercials have trouble defining the Saturn brand.
    GM is much too late on this. Contributors to this blog have been opining for over a year that GM should have been trimming down their offerings and consolidating their dealers. Ford managed and they're the only one of the Big 3 who are offering a strategy for the future as opposed to one or two cars.
    GM, now is the time to realize that the Volt is not the second coming. If you put all your eggs in this single basket, your whole company is going down the pan.

  9. I hate to see any of these brands whittled down, but Buick has a better global case than Pontiac. Pontiac has never been globally recognized, and it's the only one of the old GM brands that isn't particularly linked to the heritage of a person's name (David Buick, Louis Chevrolet, Ransom Olds, Adam Opel, and Henry Leland (both Cadillac and Lincoln).
    If you're looking for an Insignia, the new Buick Invicta/LaCrosse is our (N.A.) version of Epsilon II. So will be the next Malibu. I can see that it doesn't make much sense to replace the Aura and G6, making them competitors. Case in point: GM routinely outsells Ford in full-sized pickups, but never gets the top spot because the volume is divided between the Chevrolet and GMC brands. Ford has certainly taken advantage of the crowing rights of "best selling vehicle", and nobody is the wiser because nobody seems to know that the Silverado and the Sierra are the same vehicle!
    Pontiac's line-up has become illogical: a thirsty, expensive Holden(G8), a vanished WBody (Grand Prix), an aging Epsilon(G6), a Cobalt clone(G5), a Toyota Corolla(Vibe), a Daewoo(G3), a Theta SUV that isn't updated along with the Equinox, Antara, Vue, and SRX(Torrent).
    The Solstice is a nice car, but could just as easily be a junior version of the Corvette. The Saturn/Opel/Daewoo-Sky/GT could become a junior version of the Cadillac XLR, marketed against the small Mercedes Benz convertible SLK.
    GM does a good job differentiating their products these else would people be calling for a sale of Hummer, which are based on Chevy truck platforms!! What would the buyer get, other than the name and copyrights?!
    I would have rather seen Oldsmobile survive rather than Pontiac (and also Plymouth over Dodge), but that's the way it goes. If it takes a couple of nameplates falling by the wayside for GM to prevail, I'm for it.

  10. GM had too many brands before - Oakland, LaSalle, Marquette - but survived. I was glad to see the Subaru interest go, but they should have hung on to Suzuki, Isuzu, and Fiat.

  11. I agree Buick is more of a global brand than Pontiac, but Pontiac traditionally offered more sporty versions of some of GM's other models. In particular I really hate to see the G6 convertible fall by the wayside. I hope Buick and/or Chevy will use this updated Epsilon platform for a convertible version. How about a modern Riviera convertible?

  12. Merge the truck divisions, WTF.

  13. If Buick drops the Lucerne, it will have only two models compared to Pontiac's five. Which division will be dropped? I want to see a viable Lucerne/DTS replacement. Fuel economy in full-sized sedans can be improved by using a high-output V-6 with a 6 speed auto.

  14. GM is reorganizing their dealerships into two types; Chevy/Cadillac and Buick, Pontiac, GMC.

    At the B/P/GMC dealerships they will split the full line-up of vehicles over these three brands instead of each having a full line.

    Pontiac = 2-4 sporty cars
    Buick = 3-5 luxury cars
    GMC = Trucks / SUV's

    None of this has anything to do with their international brands. The article and GM spokespeople have been very clear that this is a US brand restructuring. GM will still lead with the Buick brand in China for example.

  15. I'm actually starting to warm up to this idea. As noted before, it's a shame to see brands get axed, but if it means the survival of the company I'm all for it. Buick, GMC I don't much care for(and yes I am aware of Buick's global prescence), but I see much promise in Cadillac. Even though I've seen a few, the CTS is still Stunning! Think about how far Cadillac has come in this decade; remember the Catera and Seville? And if GM can make the Cruze affordable and high quality, it should pry people away from their Civics.

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