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· Royal Floor Sweeper
4,338 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Many have wondered what happened to the GM powerhouse of the 30s, 40s, 50s, and into the 60s.
Here is a quick analysis of their branding strategy:

Once GM got possession of all their brands by the 20s/early 30s, they niche-marketed them. While based (generally) on a body that would start w/ one brand then "waterfail" to others, they all looked VERY distinct from one another (excellent brand differentiation). Look carefully at GMs from 48-53, for example. The integrated fender-hood body started w/ Cadillac and Buick, then filtered quickly to Oldsmobile, Pontiac, and Chevrolet. Yet, looking closely, all that really varies externally is fender shape, grill, and bolt-on trim. The parts from one would even bolt on one another, as utilized by car customizers and hot-rodders in the 50s and 60s.

GM brand niches:
Cadillac- big engine, high chrome/trim, luxury interior- the luxury, flash model
- For those well off and wanting to show it

Buick- high power, leader in body shape introduction/shape-style, high-level interior, more limited chrome/flash
- For those well-off but who don't like/want the "flashiness" of the Cadillac.

Buick and Cadillac were relatively equal as the "top-line," but w/ different intended clientele. They both fought and saw themselves as the "top model line" of GM.

Oldsmobile- high power, little trim, more basic interior.
- For the working-class who wanted the performance in their car w/o the luxury/cost
(It was the "sports" line of GM- w/ high power, handling suspension versions of the "everyman" models. It was the days of the "Oldsmobile Rocket" that became their logo and identity later.)

Chevrolet- the most basic model line, limited trim, affordable, decent power
-For the common working man/family- excellent affordable transportation

Pontiac- an "up trimmed" model (compared to Chevy and Olds), but w/ the smaller spec engine range and more affordable than the Cadillac
- For those of moderate income, but who still like the "flash" of the Cadillac line
(The era where the racist phrase of Pontiac meaning "poor old n**** thinks its a Cadillac" dates from. That phrase became erroneous in the 60s and later.)

GMC- The commercial truck brand- built mid-weight and heavy weight trucks
- In the light-weight trucks (under 1 ton), GMC and Chevrolet overlapped their models- using variations of the same model design. The GMC was generally built with a more austere interior and a more robust suspension (seen as for commercial use), while the Chevrolet was somewhat more ornate and the suspension allowed for a softer ride (seen as for private/small business use).

Until DeLorean pushed the GTO and its introduction as a Pontiac, rather than an Oldsmobile, the above niche marketing remained. He was "stepping on the toes" of another brand. GM stepped in and began to change its corporate philosophy to allow the various brands to compete with one another. The the early 60s, much of the niche-marketing, branding, and design continued. However, the "muscle cars" made by the brands were direct competitors and changed the thinking of the brands into actually fighting one another fiercely for sales of many VERY similar models.

Chevrolet did the same w/ the Corvette, but didn't sell it well enough to be an issue until Zora Duntov's re-engineered version took-off- of you look at the early "derivatives" of the Corvette, you'll see a performance Oldsmobile version WAS planned, but canceled when the early 50s Corvette essentially failed. The Corvette was about to be canceled itself entirely as a miserable failure, until the Ford Thunderbird took-off and GM wanted to use the Corvette as a sells competitor (unleashing Duntov to "fix" it). So, the Vette was allowed as a "special case" and seen as a semi-separate brand w/in GM.

By the 1970s and 1980s, the mold of today was formed, where the brands sold VERY similar cars to one another- for the same price ranges. In the "streamlining of production" of that era, many of the differentiators between the brands effectively disappeared or were reduced to stick-on parts. As such, the brands became rather redundant.
Once redundant, Oldsmobile lost all sense of what made it distinct. It was NOT your father's Oldsmobile, but I wish it was. The "classic" Olds was a rocket . . . (literally, as they even used that as a model name), while the modern one was a funky shaped Chevy. So, good-bye Oldsmobile . . .
The same has recently happened to Pontiac, even though they actually HAD decent brand differentiators for their models as power/performance sedans. But, they weren't different enough from Chevrolet for the "rationalization" of post-stimulus/buyout GM.

Now, GM has these primary brands remaining:
High-end cars:
(Trying VERY hard to be "cool" . . . and not a parody of itself)

Clean high-end cars:
(Has faced issues that it also may not survive, though are now making excellent vehicles)

"Everyman" cars/trucks:
(GM has been officially trying to get rid of the "Chevy" nickname, to the point of fining employees for using it)

Commercial trucks:
(Light vehicles are now close-twins of the Chevrolet version, often nicer interiors and more of a "Buick-ized" Chevy truck than a commercial vehicle. The future of the light-truck GMCs may be numbered . . . )

On top of all this, GM also owns a number of brands in other markets, inc. Holden in Australia, Vauxhall (cars) and Bedford (trucks) in the UK, and Opal in Germany/Continental Europe. Plus, have bought/sold off a number of other brands too . . .

· Royal Floor Sweeper
4,338 Posts
Discussion Starter · #2 ·
I could see GM reduced to only "Chevrolet" cars/light trucks and GMC heavy trucks very, very easily.

· Registered
846 Posts
Ah yes the GM giant

I'm old enough to be in the middle of the saga.In 1964,I ordered a '65 Chevy Super Sport.Gold on the body and a black vinyl top with black interior.I remember putting in the order for the 327 cid. engine withAFB 4bbl. and 4spd. tranny with no other power options ( power brakes, a/c, power steering),standard radio with the lighting option only. It was not built for going on Sunday drives(he he).I got all that for $3700.00! It was quick!The only thing I got after market was the wire wheel covers. They were made with mostly of stainless steel and heavy,would throw a wheel out of balance. Ah yes they were the days.
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