GM's Battle of the Brands

September 25, 2007

One might assume that General Motors should know everything that there is to know about introducing new brands, however, there are two recent brand introductions that clash, creating an interesting GM case study on the right and wrong way to market cars. The Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky, although similar in body appearance at first glance, have been on opposite sides of the marketing spectrum. The Solstice, wooing consumers with flashy advertising, falls short on actual production, while the Saturn Sky, although more expensive, just keeps on rolling out of the factory and into peoples’ garages.

It is a curious scenario. The Solstice had a great appearance, and received primo advertising on “The Apprentice” thanks to Mr. Trump, and yet Pontiac fell short of actually getting this once popular car into the consumers’ hands. With such brand familiarity in the media and in peoples’ minds, it is a downright shame that Pontiac was not reliable and could not produce enough of the cars, nor were they able to market and distribute them evenly throughout the dealerships.

I saw this episode of The Apprentice and was avidly interested in the Solstice, but once reaching a dealership I found no floor model to view; the dealership did not even have brochures available and resorted to photocopies of the technical specifications to show to consumers. What is possibly even worse is when a dealership did have a floor model, it was wary of selling it to a consumer and losing the eye candy. Poor distribution methods and non-existent on-site advertising has resulted in poor favorability of the Solstice in the eyes of this consumer. It is great to have such a well known brand, but it can destroy a company if that brand does not reach the standards set by its advertising, let alone the standards in a consumer’s mind. As a result, there are now plenty of these models sitting in the Pontiac lots, unsold and unwanted.

Perhaps these reasons are the factors as to why the Saturn Sky is showing more promise in the market. The Sky is being promoted on-site at dealerships, and better distributed, resulting in sales that are more reliable. Another factor in all this is the parent brand, GM, which has been funding Saturn more than Pontiac. This perhaps is the top contributor to why Pontiac is failing, resulting in the trickle down effect of poor distribution and bad on-site advertising. Without appropriate funding from GM, Pontiac can only do so much. Meanwhile, Saturn is rising up again with steady funding and the perception of a more reliable brand of car.

A failing Pontiac brand also reflects negatively on the parent brand of GM. If General Motors is not willing or able to support one of its own brands appropriately, then what does that show about General Motors and the future of their brand?

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