Straight-talking Karl-Thomas Neumann, chief executive of Opel, has given the world of reputation management a useful new metaphor for brand-blight: the “red elephant”.
At the Geneva motor show, he told the FT that the General Motors-owned German marque had suffered from a perception problem:
There was a red elephant standing beside the car that nobody talked about which says: ‘You can’t buy me because I’m an Opel’ … and we are addressing this now.
Not welcome in the showroom (image: Dreamstime)
Whether or not Mr Neumann has mixed up “elephants in the room” and “red flags”, I find the image compelling enough to be worth spreading.
Plenty of companies persist in assuming that a brand’s historic reputation will sustain it, without tackling the scarlet pachyderm that may be frightening off customers. Antidotes include: 1) making such a noise about the brand that it drowns out the trumpeting of the creature standing alongside; 2) improving the quality of the product so that it is no longer dwarfed by the public (mis)perception about it. Read more
GM's off – and Barra's driving (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
Of two immediately obvious facts about Mary Barra, chief executive elect at General Motors, the more interesting is not that she is a woman but that she is a company “lifer”.
To my mind, GM looks as though it is signalling that it has turned the corner following the trauma of government bailout, just as Citigroup did when it appointed career insider Michael Corbat as chief executive last year. Read more
In 2010, seven managers from PSA Peugeot Citroën and five from Chang’an Automobile met in Shenzhen, southern China, to lay the groundwork for a new car factory. Three years later, Capsa, a 50-50 joint venture between the French and Chinese companies, is in the final stages of preparing a 1m square metre plant for the September launch of Chinese-made premium cars under the DS brand. “Because we were beginning from a blank sheet, people wanted to make it as perfect as possible,” says Gilles Boussac, Capsa’s president, between meetings with his team of mostly Chinese managers. “So often in China, if you’re trying to rework or improve something, it takes years to achieve.”
When a senior executive gets the boot from a company, it is usually covered up with some pablum about seeking new opportunities. So General Motors’ statement about the abrupt departure of Joel Ewanick as its head of global marketing is remarkable.
The FT reported it in this way:
“The resignation is disappointing but he failed to meet the expectations that a company has of an employee,” Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, said in an interview. He declined to give further details.
The travails of old media businesses are well-known but I’m starting to feel sympathy for advertisers and media buyers.
That sentiment was brought on by looking (in old media fashion) at the front of the print section of the New York Times today. The lead article is about Madison Avenue’s scepticism on whether Facebook is a good advertising medium and underneath that is a piece on Dish Network’s new ad-skipping digital video recorder.
Facebook’s advertisers have been struggling with whether display ads on the social network will produce results, with General Motors pulling its $10m Facebook ad budget ahead of the intial public offering.
Meanwhile, Dish has upset US television networks in the “upfront” season where they show off their next season wares to advertisers but producing a box that automatically skips all the commercials between network shows. Read more
It’s a cruel coincidence that the latest death knell for Saab comes within days of the latest extension of car guy Bob Lutz’s lease on life.
On Thursday, a Swedish court rejected the carmaker’s attempt to seek protection from its creditors, pushing a decision on potential insolvency into the hands of suppliers and employees awaiting payment for materials and labour. Saab is appealing, but the obituaries for the group – now selling well under 100,000 units annually – are already being written. Read more
The demise of Norwegian electric car pioneer Think Global will drain some of the energy from advocates of electric vehicles.
They should recharge by shifting their view from blueprints of cars and studying instead more comprehensive plans that aim to combine vehicle, infrastructure and services. Read more
The General Motors initial public offering looks as if it will be successful – and will be priced well in excess of the range first set by the underwriters. That will let the US government sell down its 61 per cent stake substantially and perhaps exit entirely next year.
So who deserves the praise for this achievement? GM’s new management (even with the revolving door at the top), the government for its act of tough love in financing GM’s purge in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, or former GM executives led by Rick Wagoner?
My money is on the government and its auto industry taskforce led by Steve Rattner for not listening to Mr Wagoner’s dire warnings about Chapter 11 and for realising that GM could only be properly restructured in bankruptcy. Read more