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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

GM Re-Ignites Image with More Future Product


The mantra for real estate is "location, location, location!" For automotive it is "product, product, product!" When GM launched their branding campaign RE:Invention the day it exited bankruptcy it was highly controversial and easily criticized debut for the 100 year old brand.

Now with Bob Lutz, the seminal car guy of the industry, in charge of marketing it is no surprise that the newest GM Re:Invention ad is call Re-Ignition and does what all the critics, myself included, said GM should do and that is focus on the products the company is building that showcase what the New GM is all about.

"Re-Ignition" leads with Cadillac's highly-successful CTS sedan and transitions to show off two new production vehicles, the SRX and CTS Sport Wagon. What's surprising about the spot is the new CTS coupe is literally launched in the ad. It's surprising because the car is about a year away from arriving on dealer lots, but launching new vehicles a year or even years ahead of having them for sale is starting to become a trend with GM.

This early marketing of the CTS coupe begs the question: Does it make sense to launch a car a year or more ahead of supply? For GM, it makes a lot of sense since they are mainly trying to rebuild their brands after accepting significant government bailout money.

The whole push to promote new models and even early CAD renderings of possible concepts is a way for GM to show they are new, fresh and capable of building cars people want. The Chevy Volt is showcased over and over again since it is the darling of what an American 'green' vehicle can become. It truly reinvents the industry (just don't tell anyone that every automaker from Fiat, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, etc are also building Electric Vehicle products launching around the same time as the Volt.) But this is marketing and GM is making a strong bid to show it is building the future of the American auto industry.

It is rare for an automaker to start promoting a vehicle before the production version gets its official reveal at a major auto show. The auto show is a place where the media can see the car, get inside, and share their thoughts on the design and space of the vehicle before early production models head out for media drive events. The reveal starts the buzz for a new vehicle.

The Converj Concept, that the CTS coupe gets its body from, debuted at this year's Detroit Auto Show but that was an early concept model and not the production reveal. Plus the Conjerv was all about making a Cadillac version of the Chevy Volt. By debuting a new model months before it shows up in an auto show as a production debut, Cadillac is trying to generate some early buzz for the product and the Cadillac brand.

Unfortunately, the coupe isn't that revolutionary. It's just a coupe which is something the CTS needs to be competitive against its German rivals the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 3-series, and Audi A5. Lincoln doesn't make a coupe MKZ and Lexus should have an IS coupe soon. Having an entry luxury coupe isn't as exciting as reinventing electric vehicle technology so maintaining any buzz will be difficult.

Regardless GM is actively reinventing itself and it is a great thing to do that reinvention by showcasing future products instead of using cliche Americana imagery that many rolled their eyes at when GM ran their "New GM" spot. My guess is that with Lutz at the helm we'll continue to see early product marketing efforts and fewer brand anthems. It's all about the product.
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