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Attention GM Suckers! Your BMW-Fighter is Fat!

Attention GM Suckers! General Motors’ important small rear-drive “Alpha” platform is apparently in trouble, if  GMInsideNews reporting (via Truth About Cars) is right.  Alpha is the latest American attempt to compete with the BMW 3-series. It cost a billion bucks. But thanks to bureaucratic product-bloat–a process familiar to students of the F-111 fighter and Microsoft VISTA–the supposedly small and sporty platform has locked in a “sub-optimal geometry” on the front suspension (which GM is reportedly trying to mask instead of fixing) and is hundreds of pounds overweight. … There’s a reason some companies go bankrupt, you know. And corporate cultures are hard to change. … [Work in UAW attack? Readers expect. Thx-ed Why does GM have to try make one platform, designed to be a 3-series fighter, serve as underpinnning for at least  four three cars, including a bigger Cadillac and the Camaro? Ideally, after all, GM would produce a great 3-series platform and another equally great bigger platform. But thanks to above-market union wages, work rules, pensions, etc, GM's cost structure won't allow spending for that many different basic designs. Hence the attempt to turn the Alpha into a Veg-a-matic platform that does everything--but does it in familiar, mediocre GM fashion.] ….

Update: Megan McArdle puts in a bad word for conglomeration. …

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dave-Kawasaki/1798183858 Dave Kawasaki

    Submit the article back to your editor. Maybe s/he can show you what to remove.

  • randomerror95

    I wonder why the difference between GM and Ford in figuring out how to build a car that can compete with imports. Both my parents drive Fords (a Fusion and an Expedition), and I drive theirs some when back home visiting. Ford seems to have gotten it right with both of these vehiceles. I’ve driven the Fusion a fair amount and I’m impressed; for my money it’s on a par with, if not superior, to the Camrys and Accords that have dominated the mid-size family sedan space for 20 years or more. Ford is also ahead of just about everyone in terms of technology integration. Connecting an iPhone to the computer in the Expedition via bluetooth is simple – and their system works smoothly and unobtrusively. Neither car seems crappy and plasticky like GM or Chrysler vehicles I’ve been in recently.

    Doesn’t Ford have the same UAW wages and benefits and other legacy costs? And yet they build better cars and didn’t need a bailout. I’d be interested to know the why of this if anyone knows.

    • thephranc

      Ford has more world wide assembly systems. Their plant in Brazil is the most amazing one I’ve ever seen. Its efficient and no UAW. Ford uses as much of its wold wide operations as it can to offset the price of the unions. They have also shared platforms with Mazda for a long time. The new Fiesta and Mazda 2 are the same basic car. Ford has had a better business model for years.

      • randomerror95

        Thanks, that’s helpful. I knew Ford and Mazda have partnered for years, but wasn’t thinking if that in this context. I’ve got a Mazda 3, which is great for city living – quick, good handling, attractive style – perhaps the ride and handling of the Fusion suggests the people at Ford learned something from Mazda.

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  • thephranc

    Sometimes I wounder if GM is staffed by people who know anything about cars much less how to run a business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Kaib/1091662620 Josh Kaib

    There is a difference between a car “platform” and a car chassis. So no, this isn’t corporate penny-pinching and trying to make a one-sized-fits-all chassis, but an attempt to develop the basis for a variety of chassis for a variety of cars.

    Every single auto company does this, including Ford, Toyota, and Honda. And instead of passing judgement on the Cadillac ATS now, wait until it comes out. For taxpayers’ sake, let’s hope it does well. We all want our money back!

    • Mickey Kaus

      thanks. will fix chassis/platform confusion. Every car company does this, but it’s Caddy that always seems to come in overweight. Nor, as far as I know, do BMW, Nissan, Toyota or Audi try to make the same platform work for both a 3-series size car and a next-size-up car (e.g. Audi A6), which is what Cadillac is doing.

  • leisureguy

    doesn’t GMs having spent “a billion dollars” on a “BMW fighter” show they’re not serious about their survival? How big a market is there for expensive toys like this? Wouldn’t a company that intends to make enough money to return to being a capitalist enterprise be trying to develop and build cars that lots of people can afford and would want to buy?

    • Mickey Kaus

      BMW makes a lot of money on the 3 series. They sell around a half million of them in a good year. It’s not a niche car–many people want smallish sports sedans, and BMW is way ahead in that market in the US, despite attempts by Toyota and Nissan to horn in. GM should be able to compete. Here is a sales chart for April

      http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/april-sales-mid-and-large-luxury-sedans/

      • ErikZ

        So, GM has been successfully competing against Toyota and Nissan and are now trying to beat BMW?

        I hadn’t heard of them successfully competing against anyone. And as for BMW, all they see is “Hey, BMW makes a lot of money selling expensive cars. Lets sell expensive cars!”

  • leisureguy

    Can unions do any more to kill GM? I thought that GMs fixed costs are so high in part because they still need to pay the life-time full-time benefits they granted their 800,000 workers back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s? It will be along time before GM is free of that burden. Re-reading the comment, I suspect the union joke was more a toss-off joke than a pense profonde. Anyway, I’ve enjoyed your work back to the days you worked for Mike Kinsley. I even bought a copy of your book.

    Paul