To take on the electric future, General Motors turns to its past
Ed Niedermeyer is an author, columnist and co-host of The Autonocast. His book, Ludicrous: The Unvarnished Story of Tesla Motors, was released in August 2019.
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General Motors’ EV day didn’t just mark the launch of a new flexible battery architecture and an ambitious plan to deploy this underlying foundation across all of the automaker’s brands, including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC.
It was a resurrection, albeit with a modern twist.
The company’s announcement this week gave new life to its brand ladder — a portfolio that ranges from the heights of luxury to the most basic utility — and tipped its hand about how it will bring EVs “across the chasm.”
This game plan isn’t new. GM is bringing back a strategy that once defined its success and reshaped America’s automotive landscape. This strategy worked for GM until complacency crept in and the brand ladder collapsed. This time, GM is aiming to avoid these snares.
Henry Ford’s moving assembly line birthed the early auto industry, but as American prosperity grew in the 1910s-20s, it was General Motors that laid the foundations of the modern car market. Under then-chairman Alfred Sloan, the amalgamation of once-independent automakers united under a strategy that would, in his words, create “a car for every purse and purpose.” From a value Chevrolet to a sporty Pontiac, from a discreetly plush Buick to a majestic Cadillac, and with countless brands in between, what became known as Sloanism birthed the idea that there should be a car to reflect every American’s self-image and social status.