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Drive To Perfection
September 27, 2013 2:35 PM   Subscribe

General Motors is literally tearing its competition to bits ...so its 3D scanning can reverse-engineer others' vehicles, increasing speed to market. 'All this technical innovation makes it easier for GM to react to competition faster and push innovations out rapidly. Still, it doesn't guarantee that GM will execute in a way that makes people want to buy the company's vehicles.' 'The capabilities that come from GM's benchmarking efforts bring another sort of risk with them—GM could learn from its competitors too well and become indistinguishable from them. It's a problem that plagues today's auto industry, where you often can't tell vehicles from different manufacturers apart in a parking lot without looking at the name plate.'

'In 2002, some GM executives were talking about the idea of the company becoming a "virtual" automaker—shifting toward becoming purely a design and engineering shop and outsourcing manufacturing completely. The company nearly became virtual in another sense before its bankruptcy and government bailout. But now that GM is back to profitability and holds a respectable and growing market share, it needs to find the right balance between reacting to competitors and finding its own road. And GM hopes its current approach to digital modeling will be the tool that leads to a happy medium.'

'Despite the innovations behind the SSR a decade ago, it wasn't the car GM needed at the time. Its timing was awful, arriving a year after the 9/11 attacks in the midst of throttled-back expectations and ballooning gas prices. After the initial excitement in its first limited model year, sales tanked in 2004. Only 9,000 were sold and nearly another 9,000 remained in inventory. In 2005, GM announced it would be closing the Lansing Craft Centre and shutting down the SSR's production. The company booked a $10 billion loss.'
posted by VikingSword (31 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I remember when the new Malibu model came out in 2008 I thought it looked really good...because it looked a Honda Accord.
posted by Doleful Creature at 2:56 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


This was a neat but empty article. It does nothing to place GM within a wider context. Is what they're doing unique, or is it the new industry standard? I don't know, and the article doesn't tell me. It's little more than an extended advertisement for GM.
posted by jsturgill at 2:58 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Have you seen the new Aston Martin Rapide Ford Fusion?
posted by nathancaswell at 3:04 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I dunno... What I look for in a car is reliability, which from a marketing standpoint is intrinsically tied to the brand. A car that just looks like Brand X, does not make it as reliable as Brand X. And as far as copying the design elements of more expensive cars, well, like the Genesis coupe, sporty and beautiful as it is to some, it is and always will be a Hyundai, and have all the baggage (undeserving as that may be) of that brand.
posted by Debaser626 at 3:12 PM on September 27, 2013


I think the visual similarities between cars may be more down to a mixture of increasing consolidation in the industry and the now pervasive idea of having a single, global "design language" across all your car models. So all Fords, for instance, look increasingly identical, to the point where they retrofitted a somewhat silly Astonish grille on the Fiesta recently.

But between the different global firms there's still a lot of differences. It's just that now it looks like there are maybe 12 cars globally (the Audi, the Ford, the BMW, etc) with various sizes and trunk angles.
posted by selfnoise at 3:13 PM on September 27, 2013


You know what I think GM's biggest image problem is? All those years of ads for GM Goodwrench service. Obviously, routine maintenance is a necessary thing, but putting so much emphasis on it is like coming right out and saying, "It's gonna fall apart in three months."

Also, the 2013 Impala looks like a 1992 Corolla.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:28 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've taken apart the seats from both a recent Corvette and a recent Porsche. It does not require a 3D scanner to understand that GM's design is teh suck.
posted by indubitable at 3:33 PM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you seen the new Aston Martin RapideFord Fusion?

Heh. Reminds me of a tv advertising campaign Ford undertook back in the 80's, when the German luxury brands really exploded in the US. The ads featured supposedly real drivers of some new Ford car, showing off parking tickets they got where the police officer identified their car as a Mercedes. "Looks just like a Mercedes!" (or something like that) was the sell line. Kind of the low point of US car-maker quality, really.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:51 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I look for in a car is it's inherent Saabness. Good job screwing that up GM! 3D scanning of competitors won't help you produce a clean, comfortable design - I'm looking at you, Cadillac...
posted by combinatorial explosion at 4:09 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep thinking "Aston" when I see those Fusions, but thought it was just me.
posted by wintermind at 4:24 PM on September 27, 2013


I'm so far liking my Ford Probe Buick LaSabre Dodge Dart.

posted by JoeXIII007 at 4:39 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Doesn't matter what they're doing. If you can't buy top-of-the-line with all the options, it's all overpriced shite--mega road noise, plastic pieces fall off, seat belts jam, no leg or head room, whateves.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:16 PM on September 27, 2013


Whenever I rent a GM or Chrysler car (I never seem to get Ford), I can't help but hate it. They feel so chintzy. The steering is loose, the suspension is a weird combination of uncomfortable and mushy, the seat covering is artificial and scratchy, and the engine is loud but somehow underpowered. This in comparison to a Honda Civic that cost me $18k new, half a decade ago, less than half the price of some of the hulks I've driven.

Until they fix the fact that their cars feel like they might leave you on the side of the road at any moment, I won't be buying one.
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:30 PM on September 27, 2013


I keep thinking "Aston" when I see those Fusions, but thought it was just me.

See also that Hyundai that's an imitation Bentley.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with the rentals may be that they usually rent larger cars, and American makers seem to think that they need to appeal to the land-yatch-loving demographic who used to buy those things. But they design things by looking at "benchmark" vehicles, so they want to build a car that handle kind-of like a BMW and that is as comfortable as a Camry and that's soft like grandpa's old Crown Victoria, all for a price competitive with Hyundai.

They're actually pretty good at what they do, and they come up with really clever solutions (like Ford's trailing blade suspension you still find on Mazdas and Volvos), but the result is all over the place and not actually very pleasing to most people.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:46 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Cadillac youthful image rebrand has been a disaster. I'm square in the demographic that they are trying to appeal to. I considered a Caddy when I bought my last car. Hell, I considered them for my last two cars, theres no way it will happen. The next Cadillac I see driven by someone younger than my dad will be the first. Quality is 100 miles behind Lexus/Infiniti, and 1000 behind Merc/BMW.

I'd drive a Hyundai Genesis sedan before I'd buy a CTS. That's pretty terrible.
posted by Keith Talent at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2013


Quality is 100 miles behind Lexus/Infiniti, and 1000 behind Merc/BMW.

I'd be careful about idolizing German quality. They drive well, and they can go fast, but German brands have a reputation for breaking very expensively after five years. Anecdotally, I know one person who used to drive an M3. He said that every time he filled up the gas tank, the engine needed a litre of oil. What kind of quality is that? Another person I know drives a 911, which he bought used. It's a good thing he got an extended warranty, because the engine blew a head gasket (or something) and needed to be replaced. It wasn't that old.

Anyway, I'm not saying that GM's quality is equal to that of Lexus. It isn't. But it's better than it used to be.
posted by Dasein at 7:32 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Quality is 100 miles behind Lexus/Infiniti, and 1000 behind Merc/BMW.

Bat's Thackwards.
posted by klanawa at 7:47 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd be careful about idolizing German quality.

Couldn't agree more, but I'd go much further. Mercedes is outright shit. SHIT. The quality is horrible. And I've been amazed how chintzy the interior is with crap-quality plastic stuff that easily breaks. Yuck.
posted by VikingSword at 7:57 PM on September 27, 2013


VikingSword, you must be thinking of the last generation Mercedes.
posted by Dasein at 8:07 PM on September 27, 2013


Well, to be honest it's been a few years since I've paid any attention to Mercedes, so yeah, my impressions are from the past, but back then there were serious QC issues with them - and I mean serious, like at some point lagging somewhere at the bottom of quality surveys. Mercedes owners of course are quite loyal, so I guess they kept buying through thick and thin, but I was extremely put off. Nothing disgusts me like asking top money for bottom quality goods... if you've got the gall to charge for a supposed luxury brand, you better deliver fucker, and you got no excuses. I'm afraid that permanently soured me on Mercedes, as I can never trust them - if they were willing to let their standards completely collapse once, who says it can't happen again. So fuck 'em. I'll never buy a Mercedes.
posted by VikingSword at 10:07 PM on September 27, 2013


RTFA aside; a few sessions working on Detroit's finest continues to lose and repel any chance of buying a domestic passenger car. If Honda etc. ever decides they want the light truck industry; it too is there waiting to be taken.

Detroit does make motivational commercials. Makes people proud to own and see domestic vehicles. Wish that helped with their quality and reliability.
posted by buzzman at 10:49 PM on September 27, 2013


The next Cadillac I see driven by someone younger than my dad will be the first.
No idea where you live but that first would have happened right at the Cadillac lot here in Southern California.

It may not be commanding the price of a 3 Series, much to Cadillac's dismay, but the Cadillac ATS has certainly received critical praise and definitely appeals to younger buyers as well as older ones, which to me seems more market-friendly versus the 3, which is fairly solidly considered a younger driver's car.

Full disclosure: I'm 39 and I just got an ATS 2.0T. Okay, not me, the SO -- she wanted a sedan and dislikes BMWs almost as much as I do (I just don't get their appeal). She's 36. I'm pretty sure she's younger than your dad.
posted by linux at 11:13 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wetzel wanted car design and engineering to be more like software development
Speaking as a software developer: NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:11 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm young. I drive relatively little --maybe 8k miles a year. I won't buy anything that gets worse than 30 mpg. My parking spot is oddly tiny. I need a car that won't murder me on snow and ice. I can spend up to 25k. I expect to drive the same car for 8-10 years. Does GM make a single model that I would want? Anything in vaguely the same class as a Focus/Civic/Impreza/Prius?
posted by miyabo at 6:31 AM on September 28, 2013


Dunno.. .seems to me that if there was anything that GM needed at the time of their restructuring, it was actually to be a lot more like its top competitors.
posted by markkraft at 7:01 AM on September 28, 2013


It's a problem that plagues today's auto industry, where you often can't tell vehicles from different manufacturers apart in a parking lot without looking at the name plate.

Also, the 2013 Impala looks like a 1992 Corolla.

All cars started looking like lumpy Extra Strength Tylenol caplets in the late 90s. The trend has continued, with major changes in the following decade involving raising the window line which gives a sort of 'squeezed' appearance from the side, and a cramped feeling as a passenger; and increasingly sloped windshields producing really large dashboard tops. (I assume these designs became standard due to fuel efficiency and safety trends or requirements, but the styling they yield is awful).

Then recently it seems like the manufacturers have started to try and re-differentiate and get some angular elements back in by adding various flares and ridges of questionable aerodynamic or structural purpose, and cheap metallicized plastic accents, etc. Which look misbegotten when slapped on the ovals-on-ovals bodies of today. Like the new Charger or Camaro, with their superficial ersatz-throwback muscle car accents that struck me as cartoonish from the get-go. Or the flares and ridges on recent BMWs, which look like they've been given too much Botox.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:19 AM on September 28, 2013


I'm young. I drive relatively little --maybe 8k miles a year. I won't buy anything that gets worse than 30 mpg. My parking spot is oddly tiny. I need a car that won't murder me on snow and ice. I can spend up to 25k. I expect to drive the same car for 8-10 years. Does GM make a single model that I would want? Anything in vaguely the same class as a Focus/Civic/Impreza/Prius?

Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic and Spark.

With regards to snow and ice, get better tires and any modern car should acquit itself decently.
posted by linux at 9:07 AM on September 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


General Motors is literally tearing its competition to bits ...so its 3D scanning can reverse-engineer others' vehicles, increasing speed to market. 'All this technical innovation makes it easier for GM to react to competition faster and push innovations out rapidly

Well, it works for Samsung.
posted by empath at 7:01 AM on September 29, 2013


Well, to be honest it's been a few years since I've paid any attention to Mercedes, so yeah, my impressions are from the past, but back then there were serious QC issues with them - and I mean serious, like at some point lagging somewhere at the bottom of quality surveys.

VikingSword, my last comment was tongue-in-cheek, but you're absolutely right about what happened to Mercedes quality. From what I've heard, they decided at some point in the 1990s that their cars were over-engineered, and that they could make a lot more money by cutting back on quality while charging the same price. The results were pretty disastrous for them. I think they're better now, but why would you risk your brand like that? Stupid and short-sighted.
posted by Dasein at 9:29 AM on September 30, 2013


I'm young. I drive relatively little --maybe 8k miles a year. I won't buy anything that gets worse than 30 mpg. My parking spot is oddly tiny. I need a car that won't murder me on snow and ice. I can spend up to 25k. I expect to drive the same car for 8-10 years. Does GM make a single model that I would want? Anything in vaguely the same class as a Focus/Civic/Impreza/Prius?

Chevrolet is bringing out a diesel Cruze that they say will get 56 mpg on the highway, and the thing about diesel is that unlike gas you can actually acheive the rated fuel economy in real-world driving. (The reviewers in the linked article also got better than 32 mpg in the city.)

As for snow and ice, don't worry about AWD, just get a good set of winter tires.
posted by Dasein at 9:39 AM on September 30, 2013


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