How GM got its style magic back

How did GM get its mojo back?

Two ways, as a character in a Hemingway novel said when asked how he went bankrupt: gradually and then suddenly.

Profound change takes place in increments, whether in an individual or an organization. The improvement can be unnoticeable until it becomes too great to ignore.

With the new Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Enclave — 2008 Free Press Car and Truck of the Year — it's clear: General Motors Corp. can once again be counted on to build some of the world's best vehicles.

"The cars and trucks GM has introduced over the last three model years or so stand alongside the best the company did in the 1950s and '60s when GM was the peak of styling and innovation," said Joe Phillippi, an analyst who has advised investors about automakers since 1968 and is principal of AutoTrends Consulting in Short Hills, N.J.

The Enclave and Malibu are the consummation of an agonizingly slow process in which the world's largest automaker completely reworked the way it designs and develops new cars and trucks.

There's never been a shortage of talented engineers and designers at GM, but for decades, the company's processes, politics and management blocked creativity and innovation, throwing one roadblock after another in front of the people who simply wanted to build great vehicles.

The reason the new "vehicles happened is that GM now has a hyperefficient, product-focused vehicle development program," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics of Birmingham. GM's vehicle-development system today can stand alongside Toyota and BMW as the best in the industry, Hall said. More at Detroit Free Press

Leave a Reply