Saturday, June 6, 2009

General Motors Car(nage)

The news from Detroit gets more confusing every day.

General Motors, now in bankruptcy and restructuring, seems to be following the least sensible strategy for its orphaned components.

First in line is Saab. Without Swedish assistance, the company looks to end its automaking days and concentrate on other revenue streams. Say g'bye to the 9-3 - not that the last few versions, little more than Opel Vectras in party frocks, were all that marvelous.

Then there's Hummer. Rumour has it a Chinese business is buying the uber-SUV maker.

Next comes Opel. A joint Canadian-Russian consortium is buying out the European arm of the company.

One would think that the same group that's buying Opel would get a shot at Saturn, since the latest models indicate that Saturn is becoming to the US market what Vauxhall has evolved into for the UK: a domestic rebranding of the Opel product line. The Aura and Astra both are basically Opel product, and the indications pre-restructuring were that Saturn would essentially be "Opel US" in the near future. Instead, however, GM is selling Saturn to Penske. How Penske expects to continue new model development without input from Magna and Sberbank - the new Opel owners - one cannot guess.

I can well understand GM shedding brands that have either lost their natural market (Oldsmobile, for instance), or which are finally admitting death-by-neglect (Pontiac). And somebody had to take on Hummer, which after the last gas-price spike is probably one of GM's least attractive properties either for GM itself or for any entity willing to take it off GM's hands. But the whole fragmentation of the one truly viable carmaking segment of the enterprise - Opel/Vauxhall/Saturn - just doesn't make sense to the casual observer, unless the goal is to punish those subdivisions for being better at making money than Chevrolet, Pontiac and Buick.

Whatever comes of restructuring, the survival of GM and the makes it's spinning off should at least be interesting to watch.

1 comment: