Who has seen the latest GM “Employee Discount for Everyone” commercial on the occasion of the car maker’s 100th anniversary? If so, you’ve probably seen some SUVs, one Hummer, sports cars, but have you seen any of these cars on which the survival of the once largest car maker in the world, now one of the largest loss generators, depends? No!
General Motors will celebrate its 100th anniversary on September 16. It was founded in Flint, Michigan, in 1908 by Billy Durant. It evolved into a giant automaker and it once held more than 50% of the U.S. car market. GM was the world’s largest automaker for 77 years, it’s brands are known everywhere around the globe. Undoubtedly, GM can look back to many glorious years. Though General Motors had to face numerous challenges in the past 100 years, the company has barely been in as dire straits as today. Its U.S. market share is shrinking, because most of GM’s cars are inefficient gas guzzlers which aren’t competitive with Japanese models. SUV sales numbers are in free fall due to sky-high gasoline prices. The company has relied on its old strength for too long a time. Its stock value has nosedived in recent years and GM generates enormous multi-billion dollar losses. Thus, it’s no surprise that nobody of GM’s employees is in a party mood. GM is closing down factories and reducing capacities.
Nevertheless, it seems as if the company’s management has realized that it’s time to act and there’s need to hurry. GM created a state-of-the-art electric car with range extender – the Chevy Volt. It runs on electricity for the first 40 miles, and then a small gasoline-powered generator recharges the batteries and extends the driving range considerably. As most Americans drive less than 40 miles per day, they can reduce their gasoline consumption decisively by using electricity from the home socket for power. The Chevrolet Volt is planned to hit the market in 2010, and it could become a huge success, as it is much more advanced than e.g. Toyota’s famous hybrid car, the Prius. Hybrid cars can only be considered a short-term solution, but all electric cars – with or without range extender – will increasingly gain market share in the next decade.
For GM, the Chevy Volt is vital to the company’s survival. But one car can’t be the saving grace. GM has to change its entire product lineup and change its image. Obviously, GM’s PR department failed this time with this commercial, and instead of offering employee discount for everyone, and reducing the profit margin even further, they should make an effort to show that they’re on the right track.
It’s generally expected that GM will promote its new efforts to build more efficient and technologically advanced, greener cars on the offical celebration on September 16th. On GMnext.com, lots of information about how the company wants to enter its second century can be seen.
You can read all about the Chevy Volt and the electric car revolution in many of my past posts. You can see an overview on my last post from August 13th. I’ll continue blogging regularly soon. Right now, I’m spending my vacation in Miami.