No. 757,
July 23, 2014

About The Autoextremist

What do you do when when you've been immersed in all things automotive since before you took your first steps? When you're the scion of an automotive family in an automotive town in its very own automotive universe? When you've forgotten more about cars and motorsports and everything and everyone involved in the business than most people will ever know? When cars aren't just in your blood, but also in your bones and your brain and the very air you breathe? If you're Peter M. De Lorenzo, you ramp it up a bit further. National commentator, industry consultant and author (as well as former superstar ad man), De Lorenzo's daily (and nightly) focus for the past 15 years has been Autoextremist.com, a weekly Internet magazine devoted to news, commentary and analysis of the auto industry and the business of motorsports. Translation: De Lorenzo likes to tell the truth about what's really going on behind the scenes in the car business. And sometimes, things get ugly. Real ugly. But he is as passionate with his praise as he is with his critiques, and Autoextremist has become a weekly "must read" for leading professionals in all industries. De Lorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today. It's the very definition of a high-octane life. And it's what fuels De Lorenzo to keep the pedal down - hard. He won't stop because he can't stop. A bit tired, perhaps? No way. De Lorenzo is one of the most untired people we know.

De Lorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  witchhuntbook.com). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. De Lorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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The Autoextremist - Rants


Tuesday
Jun162009

THE AUTOEXTREMIST

June 17, 2009


Job 1 for GM’s Henderson.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo


(Posted 6/16, 11:30AM) Detroit
.


Dear Fritz -

Now that you’ve been running General Motors, or shall we say, participating in the management of GM, for over three months now, I think it’s time to face the realities – as you so often like to say – about the GM that exists today.

Not the GM you’ve been working for over the last 25 years, mind you, because we know that company is gone forever. And not the GM you’ve been tirelessly working on since last fall when you and the Rick Wagoner-led GM management team at the time knew that The End was near. And no, it’s not the GM that has been hovering in the Twilight Zone of impending financial collapse since the first of the year. And it’s not even the remnants of the “bad” company that is awash in bankruptcy as we speak.

No, I’m talking about the GM that exists today – that other GM – the one that exists in the hearts and minds of too many in the media and too many consumers around the country. The one that is now flat broke and busted, a listless hulk smoldering by the side of the road.

That GM, Fritz.

The GM I’m speaking about has an image that is in tatters. Despite a glittering historical legacy that will never be duplicated again, GM, the once-majestic American symbol of corporate success that in its glory days was a source of intense pride to its employees and dealers - even eliciting grudging respect from its most bitter of rivals - has been relegated to a punch line, and is now staring at an ignominious future that has the UAW, of all things, owning 17 percent of the company and the U.S. Treasury owning over 60 percent of the rest.

You’ve said in interview after interview that the future of GM rests with its customers, the markets it competes in, and of course, its products, Fritz. That’s all very noble, well and good and dead accurate too, I might add. But you’re forgetting one very key ingredient in all of this, and that is the people, whether we’re talking about longtime GM customers, employees, suppliers, investors, pensioners, dealers or just plain “GM families” - as quaint as that hoary notion sounds in this day and age - who now feel betrayed by the company and who now believe that the GM that was once there for them is no longer interested in them.

That GM, Fritz.

Before GM can please Washington, quell the media hordes (at least somewhat), appease the union, mollify suppliers and dealers, launch an impressive array of new vehicles, conquest import-oriented consumers, grow its market share, and eventually get the ship righted and sailing in a sunny direction again, it must address the fact that it has turned off thousands of people who were once fiercely loyal to the company and its brands.

If you think the cacophony generated by disgruntled dealers, suppliers and pissed-off customers is going away anytime soon, you’re sadly mistaken. As a matter of fact it’s growing with each passing day. Those customers who used to be so willing to buy into whatever GM was selling out of feelings of loyalty? Gone. Those dealers and suppliers who would suck it up and take one for the team because it was just “understood” that is was their role in the Big Picture? Forget it. They’re so done with GM right now it would make your head spin.

Why? Well, to your former customers the idea that this once-proud company is now unable to control its own destiny because it failed to see that the light at the end of the tunnel was really a giant freight train of Not Good is beyond appalling. It’s disgusting to them, as a matter of fact, and it doesn’t matter how excellent your products are now or how good the ones coming are, either. “Their” company let them down, big-time, and they’re never going to forget it.

And it only gets worse for people who relied on GM for their financial futures. They’re simply outraged. But outrage doesn’t even begin to describe the out-and-out loathing of anything and everything to do with GM that’s going on with your dealers and suppliers right now.

Whatever is in your mind about the state of the company and its upward trajectory coming out of bankruptcy, Fritz, the reality is that the core base of customers that provided a rock-solid foundation for the company for all of these years has now crumbled.

The hard-core loyalists who remain are now only somewhat interested, which isn’t a good sign to say the least. And the rest? The people who invested their savings in the company, and the ones who invested years of toil and sweat - basically their entire livelihoods - on the company’s behalf are so gone at this point they can’t even muster the energy to care anymore.

As you told Bill Vlasic in today’s New York Times, you have two rules for both yourself and other G.M. “lifers” if you are to succeed in reviving the company as a smaller, smarter competitor:

“I have to listen,” you said. “Listening to others is a key skill. Secondly, I never declare victory too soon. Get the job done first before you talk about it.”

Listening is good, Fritz, that’s always an excellent place to start. And you better listen to your core customers first, because before you get one import-oriented consumer to consider an American car again - specifically a GM car - you’ll need advocates out there in the real world who are True Believers in what GM has to offer and who will speak on the company’s behalf. And right now you have just the opposite, and the volume is about to hit “11.”

I’ve often said over the years that GM needed to stop “preaching to the choir” when it came to marketing. In other words, the company needed to reduce spending marketing dollars on their loyalist customers in favor of increasing spending aimed at attracting the attention of consumers who normally wouldn’t even give GM a first glance. But that marketing strategy simply isn’t relevant in this current situation.

Now, before it can accomplish anything else, GM has the unenviable task of going back and attempting to salvage the core customers it once had, which in this toxic environment will prove to be exceedingly difficult.

It won’t be easy for people to forget that GM, I can assure you.

Suffice to say, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about declaring victory too soon in this case, Fritz.

Thanks for, uh... listening.

 

See another live episode of "Autoline After Hours" hosted by Autoline Detroit's John McElroy, with Peter De Lorenzo and auto industry PR veteran Jason Vines this Thursday evening, June 18, at 7:00PM EDT at www.autolinedetroit.tv.

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