Mustang Parts
   Carrying Saleen wheels and Bullitt wheels.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

GM Surrenders (Minivans)

The Detroit News reports that GM is fleeing the minivan market, to concentrate on crossovers, just as Ford is doing.

It seems like Ford and GM both made the same mistake--they brought a knife to a gun-fight, and got whacked by Honda and Toyota in the minivan segment. Both companies sold bland, underpowered, and unrefined vans, and must have made a conscious decision not to invest the money required to produce a world class product. Meanwhile, Toyota focused on quality and refinement, and Honda decided to make minivans a little sharper, and a lot quicker. Chrysler, the now (and future?) king of the segment, made sure to cover the market from cheap soccer wagons up to more elegant looking trim, and dropped some serious money on adding fold-in seats.

"We do believe it is a declining segment," GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told The News on Tuesday. "Our new crossovers, Acadia, Outlook and Enclave with their three rows of seats and economical V-6 engines, can meet the same customer needs, minus the 'Soccer Mom' stigma.."

There is nothing wrong with using crossovers (tall wagons, or unibody SUVs, or whatever) to fill the"mommy wagon" niche, there will always be a market here. However, CUVs are not minivans--they don't have sliding doors, as a rule, which creates a real problem for many customers, who need the convenience. Power sliding doors allow parents to juggle more stuff while they wrestle the baby out of the second row.

Maybe the minivan market is shrinking, but the abject failure of Ford and GM hinges not on changing fashions--they just chose not to compete.


john said...

Agree that the sliding doors are necessary for a minivan and a HUGE convenience factor for moms and dads (4 kids, 3 under 7). But I saw the new Saturn Outlook on the road yesterday and saw the Buick Enclave at an auto show and once you have seen those cars you can understand GM's decision. They are spectactular in design and as elegant a vehicle as you can find. Yet they seat me, maybe not as practical for toddlers and infants, but once the kids are all in school the GM crossovers are not only an alternative but a vehicle that fits the needs of growing families like mine. I also agree that Ford and GM were never serious players in the minivan market...but for now GM has the big crossover market all to themselves with products that to my eye look like it will be tough for the domestics or the asians to best. A couple of years from now we might be saying how smart GM was to position themselves out of the minivan market then steal most of it away.

theol-perfessor said...

"Both companies sold bland, underpowered, and unrefined vans, and must have made a conscious decision not to invest the money required to produce a world class product".
I know you are referring to the
Freestar/Monterey twinkies. They rather than being any of the slothful , slap-togethers that you infer are doomed due to their rather narrow market focus. Rather than jumping into the van market with both feet, Fomoco chose to hit the long, loader end only. I havbe driven the Odessey and it is "tinny", cheap looking inside and hard riding compared to the Ford product ( The Monterey especially has a nice designer look and a hushed quiet ride and.....the unpoaralled safety of the Ford basic design). As far as "underpowered" the extra power of the torqueless Honda engine spins the front wheels unnecessarily and is the answer to the question; "Who wants to drag race their minivan?" ( The monterey is over 200 hp and has gobs of low end torque for those loaded, cargo and passenger
situations. So to iterate at your expense if the domestics stay the course they are -stupid and if they innovate, ( name a market segment the imports have invented rather than copied) they are stupid also. By the way, where do you live? Does the survival of American industry mean anything to you or are you a "Dixie Chick" type that questions the need for patriotism at all? Vexed by the biased reporting, Lew Elion

HoosierDaddy said...

The mistake i think is surrendering an area of the market to be a "safe" spot for your competitors. Now Toyota. Honda, and Daimler-Chrysler have less competition and can bring more profit in to attack contested areas. That is why Toyota is pushing the Tundra is to take moeny out of the Big 3's pockets so they have less to challenge the segments Toyota "owns". GM and Ford keep retreating to the profitable parts of the business only to have competitors use the profits from the ceded areas to attack the profit makers. One side is at war, one side is trying to pretend it is not.