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GM Takes Aim at BMW…Then What?

09/09/2010

Tax Payers Motors HQ

Your car company, General Motors, has been given some pretty tall orders. In case you’re not clear on the basic concept the U.S. government now owns about 61 percent of GM, which it got in exchange for giving the company $50 billion in survival aid last year.

In his first company-wide, web cast, new CEO Daniel Akerson told employees yesterday they “need to go into attack mode” to stay ahead of rivals. Akerson also said GM needs to make cars and trucks that are better than those of competitors such as BMW.

Granted Akerson’s been CEO only since Sept 1 and coming from telecommunications he has zero automobile manufacturing/retailing experience. So we’ll cut him a little slack here.

But – arm-waving, generalities are not going to cut it for GM. They simply don’t work for any brand in any business.

Go through the mission statements of most of the Fortune 500 corporations sometime. Most are vague. Many are interchangeable.

What Akerson needs to deliver is a compelling but simple message defining GM to customers and employees. For example, Zappos.com is routinely cited for excellence in retailing and customer service. While it’s not their mission statement – their company goals have been distilled to “We are a service company that happens to sell shoes.” That simple statement has propelled Zappos to be rated #26 among the Top 50 Retailers by the National Retail Federation and in part why Amazon.com paid $1.2 billion (yes that’s billion) to acquire Zappos in November 2009.

I sincerely want Akerson to be successful. I don’t want taxpayers to own GM. But he’s going to need some serious help if taking on BMW and being in the attack mode are his game plan.

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