It is easy to point at where the Big Three automakers went wrong in terms of disconnect with customers, and the collectively many flaws in their respective brands. We can include lax ecology & conservation practices, environmental damage as result, too much reliance on dwindling resources, disrespect for workers (both domestic and foreign)—and other direct customer needs such as size, performance, quality, and economy.
Apart from a fading romance that many people have with the good old days of clean, wide open highways, big engines, hot rods, innovative style, large luxury and gas-guzzling power—a growing population in the US are starting to realize that the fun is over. These kinds of cars are now irrelevant, times have changed, and the liabilities of such vehicles far outweigh any lingering enjoyment we may have had from them in the past. Younger people are already there, and the numbers are growing who say owning a car is simply not worth the trouble (insurance, gas, accidents, parking, tickets, taxes, and so on). Japan's young folks are falling out of love with cars—or demotorizing completely. The level of young Americans demotorizing is sure to follow suit.
What is not so easy is realizing that no matter how much money we give Detroit automakers, no bailout will salvage the thoroughly disconnected relationship Ford, GM, and Chrysler have to the new world customers—without personal attachment to a personal vehicle, let alone attachment to the brands that failed to deliver solutions relevant for the current economic and mobility realities.
Even though automobile brands trump price in the hearts of consumers(1)—and is one of the few product categories to make such a claim in today's commoditized brand environment—new innovators who want to deliver modern and relevant automobiles could spell the end of Detroit's and even Japan's auto business, barring a radically different trajectory. Check out the amazing new creative mobility solutions in Eight alternatives to Detroit’s ‘Big Three’.
The problem with automakers beyond the direct disconnect with consumers? A huge lack in creativity at a time when there is also a loss of trust in the brand connection; the convergence of a very unsavory mix of brand flavors. Not only is there a lack of creativity in product & business model, but automakers are still using the same, tired, ineffective advertising tactics they have used for the past 20 years. But that is a topic for another story.
The solutions? To start with: Less reliance on overzealous market analysts (who are crunching numbers to base questionable brand, product & ad decisions on)—and less reliance on the same way of doing things. More open and meaningful dialog with customers. Creative approaches to a new set of challenges. If automakers and other kinds of companies begin to move in these directions, then they will be on a new road of engagement that will lead to success, prosperity, sustainability and increasing customer loyalty.
(1) "Save America's Dying Brands", Kevin J. Clancy, Marketing Management, Sept./ Oct. 2001, Vol. 10, Issue 3.
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Greetings... Finally, finally, after seven long years, I had the chance to create a new website for VOLCKMANN.COM [ beta ] with some portfolio at
It's a start.