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General Motors: The Overdog

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Fifty years ago, no one would have ever guessed that the largest, most prosperous automaker in history would have ever found itself on the verge of bankruptcy; but it happened. How’s that for a sobering experience?

By the early 21st Century, the No. 1 carmaker in the world was struggling to make good things happen, and despite their efforts the poop hit the fan and they fell from grace. But before that actually happened, the General already had plans for phase “next:” the road to prosperity and success. Little did they realize that they would have to put the plan into action sooner than expected.

The mixed bag of cars GM had on offer only five years ago had a large number of car critics wondering how the carmaker could survive in a cutthroat, competitive world. Little did we know that the General had a few tricks up its very long sleeve.

I say a few because to take a look at GM’s lineup is to understand that there are still a number of parallel universes going on within the company’s walls. Despite, perhaps, what Lutz tried to do, GM’s output remains unequal with products that are mind-blowing and others that leave us journalists perplexed.

The not-so-good are the Sonic and Spark (to name a pair), where we fail to see how the little one really has its place on the showroom floor. Then, there is the Buick brand which is still searching for its soul.

At the same time, some cars from the General’s extensive lineup continue to amaze me: The Chevrolet Cruze and Cadillac ATS are without a doubt two of the best efforts to come from General Motors’ R&D in the recent past. At the same time, products like the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu and the middle-of-the-pack Chevrolet Trax seem like something went wrong in the development process.

2013 SIAM Chevrolet
Photo: Colin Styker

Be that as it may, I remain hopeful as the Malibu is already on the redesign list and the latest products such as the C7 Corvette, Impala and new pickups seem to be cohesive and well thought out. Time will tell if they’re as good as they look.

As I wandered the extra-large amount of real-estate reserved for General Motors at the 2013 edition of the Canadian International Auto Show, I could not help but point out the winners and the losers. By my count, the split was roughly 60/40, where the winners won the match. Problem is that the winners probably count for no more than 40% of General Motors’ total annual sales.

What this does tell me is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel . What I don’t get is why, when the Cruze launched, did the entire lot of GM R&D teams not sit around the product and figure out how to reproduce the Cruze’s DNA in all other Chevrolet, GMC and Buick cars? As for Cadillac, it would seem as though they figured something out as, so far, the CTS’ brilliance has spawned the ATS and XTS. I’ve hope for Caddy (the ELR being a recent exception), however, I think it may take longer for the other brands to fully flourish.

General Motors is an overdog only because it was a winner for so long. All eyes are on this brand and great things are expected from them, always.

The pressure is on for them to belt out some great stuff. If every brand under GM stands on common ground, I know it’ll all work out.