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15Oct/080

Positioning, Branding and the Demise of the American Automobile

As I drove to work this morning, I saw a black Pontiac Solstice on the highway. Nice car! The convertible top was up due to the temperature here in Denver this morning. Then directly in front of it, I saw a Lincoln LT pickup truck, which got me to thinking about the demise of the American automobile manufacturers. First of all, I thought, "Duh!" My grandfather said many times that he was waiting for the day when they'd make a Cadillac pickup. Too bad he wasn't around to see it. But my point is that he only said it because it was completely ridiculous. Caddilac and pickup don't mix. Cadillac means "big, luxury car."

So what's the difference between Cadillac, Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet, and GMC? What are the differentiating factors in deciding to buy a Lincoln, Mazda, or Jaguar over a Ford? Or for that matter, why would you buy a Passat over an Audi A4 (or visa versa)? And who ever thought Porsche meant "high performance SUV"????! Now we know why Porsche profits have been suffering over the last few years. And if the Cayanne has improved them, it's short lived.

Back to that Solstice... Pontiac's tag line has been in recent years, "We build excitement." Cool. I say go with it! And that Solstice looked pretty exciting. I see that on their website, they've chosen, "Pontiac is car." But they also build SUVs. Hmm... something to think about.

Pretty Exciting Looking... The Pontiac Solstice

Pretty Exciting Looking... The Pontiac Solstice

The foreign auto makers have done significantly better in branding and positioning, me thinks. While Toyota does build cars, trucks and SUVs (which, IMHO is a mistake to brand them the same), they have somehow managed to hold the position of "dependable," "long lasting" or "quality" vehicles. So, now people are willing to pay a premium price for their foreign-made automobile in hopes of getting more "value" out of it in the long run.

American auto makers wake up! Stop creating the cross-over confusion, utilize our American enginuity and resourcefulness to build a better product, and differentiate your brands! Long live the Solstice!

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