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GM May Keep G8 as a Chevy

14th July 2009

Never one at a loss of words, Bob Lutz has publicly spoken what many have said or thought privately – GM may keep the G8 after all. “The G8 has finally been discovered by a broader percentage of the buying public,” Lutz said on GM’s FastLane blog. “The owners are ecstatic about them, many calling it the best sedan they’ve ever driven. We consider it too good to waste. So we’re studying the feasibility of bringing it in as a Caprice for both law enforcement and the public.” Tom Stephens, who replaced Lutz as head of product development, made a similar comment a few weeks ago.

The G8, by most measures, is a great car. Some call it a better BMW than a BMW – and cheaper. So the idea of keeping it makes a lot of sense in many ways. One way it does not is the CAFE way. A big, powerful rear-drive sedan will hurt the company’s CAFE numbers. It will also help sales and (presumably) profits. So what’s more important – satisfying the government’s (read: majority owner’s) need for fuel economy, or that same government’s need to be paid back?

Bob and whoever else is part of this decision need to be aware that maybe the recent sales spike isn’t what it appears to be.  While it is true that June sales were up 136% from last year, a close look at G8’s sales chart might be interesting:

G8 has only been for sale for 16 months, perhaps the most tumultuous 16 months is GM’s history.  It can easily take that long to establish a new nameplate in the US auto industry – under ideal circumstances.  G8 was launched just as gas prices were starting to spike last year, and you can see that right after the first full month, sales started to creep back down, despite the positive reviews.  After a brief increase in August, sales started to fall again, probably due to all the bad press surrounding GM’s bleak financial situation last fall.  Sales spiked in February, and except for an April slide, have increased since.  Bob would like to call this being “discovered by a broader percentage of the buying public.”  Maybe, but I doubt it.  This is more likely the result of the announcements concerning Pontiac’s (lack of a) future.  Recall that it was in February that the General announced that Pontiac would be reduced to a “niche” brand.  This prompted many to go out and buy the car, as its future was uncertain (speculators, maybe?).  The dip in April is likely because there were no more people who were nervous about the G8’s future.  So why the increase in May and June?  GM announced in very late April that it would kill the Pontiac brand and all of its nameplates.  This has brought out even more pull-ahead sales, as people rush to make sure that they will get their G8 before they’re gone.

So does this mean that the G8 will not be successful as a Chevy or even a Buick (see below)?  Of course not.  It just means that Bob and his band of merry men better be careful reading too much into the sales chart.

So say we assume that GM will keep it in the lineup.  Next question is what do you call it?  Chevy Caprice, as Bob suggested, is a good fit.  The last Caprice was a big, RWD sedan.  It also didn’t win any beauty contests or warm the hearts of any enthusiasts, unlike the G8.  Other suggestions might include Chevy Impala, but the General is already working on a replacement for that car, or Chevelle, a name from the past that might work.  You could go really simple and name it Chevy G8.  How about Buick Grand National?  Buick is in need of a shot of adrenaline, and the G8 would certainly provide that, while resurrecting Buick’s performance heritage.

There are many decisions that GM must make, but let’s hope that they don’t get bogged down in too much research.  GM has long been known to become paralyzed in research, only to make a decision that is too watered down to excite anybody.

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