Pontiac Solstice Forum banner

1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Mod Emeritus
Joined
·
7,468 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I was involved in an interesting discussion on GM's problems, and the person I was discussing it with had an interesting take on GM's problems.

He felt that their biggest problem in differentiating brands these days is that the individual divisions all use the same engines. He feels this causes each brand to lose its identity, since the real heart of the cars are all the same.

Maybe he has a point. There are no more Pontiac V8's, Buick V6's, etc. Each division uses the same corporate GM engines. This exasperates the brand engineering too, or at least the belief that the cars are all brand engineered clones even if they are differentiated well with different styling and interiors. It used to be that GM brands shared platforms, but each division then added its own sheetmetal, interior, and drivetrain to make a unique vehicle.

In fact, maybe the bigger problem is to take away the autonomy of the divisions in the first place. Pontiac doesn't really have control of its destiny at all. GM corporate designers and engineers come up with their version of the car, and then hand over the final copy to the Pontiac marketing team to sell.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,844 Posts
He felt that their biggest problem in differentiating brands these days is that the individual divisions all use the same engines. He feels this causes each brand to lose its identity, since the real heart of the cars are all the same.
With GM's ( and Ford's) penchant for badge engineering, I see it as more than just the heart but the lungs, liver, skeleton, skin, etc., etc. To sell an identical car (or truck) as a Chevy, Pontiac, Buick or Cadillac just seems weird. I know it's done so people will be impressed when you drive by that you've got a Chevy SUV with all the options including the Cadillac grill and badges, but it just isn't my thing. Now you can get a Northstar in a Pontiac!
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
10,471 Posts
Ff88,
The problem with that is cost, and the reason for consolidation of materials and able to purchase large quantities of parts at a better price from suppliers.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,206 Posts
Robert Townsend's Up the Organization (New York: Knopf said:
...we tend to meet any new situation by reorganizing; and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.
AH, well, here's the crux of the issue. Nearly every other car company can trace it's roots back to a main name or one company that successively merged or consumed the others. Some of the Japanese even now have their own 'created' brands, but started as a single company. Ford, Honda, Toyota, Nissan (Datsun), Daimler-Chrysler...

GM is the only one that was created as an homolgamation of companies - where the individual companies when acquired by Durant in the early 20th century managed to maintain their seperate identities. Even to the extent of separate retail outlets (dealerships), engineering, powertrain, manufacturing facilities...

It must have become obvious at one point that one company is more resource-efficient than 5, 6, or 7 duplicate companies under one umbrella corporation - hence the idea of trying to centralize the nameplates - various combinations of mergings, namplate reorganizations, groupings and the like ensued.

BOC, CPC, Lansing Automotive Division, MFD, Small Car, MCD, Truck & Bus, ... my head spins with the reorganizations when I think of it - just in the last 2 decades.

If you look at the least profitable portions of, say, FoMoCo, for example - Rover and Jaguar - these two latest acquisitions are the worst performing. They are also the portions of Ford that still have very separate engineering and development portions.

The problem is, when you acquire and merge the development, research, design, and engineering of a particular company, how do you maintain the brand equity that has been built up to that point?.

The best way is that it should have been complete takeover and rebranding back in the 1915's and 1920's - before brand and name made so much of a difference. General Motors being the parent company, with NEW brands established as Buick, Olds, Cadillac, Oakland (Pontiac), chevy, GMC's predecessor are acquired. The mistake made (ah the sharpness of 85 year hindsight, huh?) was all of these continued as basically separate companies.

By the time GM got to be THE car company - the brand equity still worked because each division was exactly what everyone thought they were - an Olds was an Olds, a Chevy was a Chevy... ...and it was true, until it became obvious that to become more efficient certain areas were being severely duplicated. How many near 300-350 cid V8's do you need, anyway?

Instead of dealing with it when the money was flowing like water (merging dealers, changing brand names, killing and moving things are much easier when you're flush with cash), they spent it like drunken sailors on shore leave.

The easiest way to merge things but maintain the illusion of having different "companies" is exactly what became badge engineering. Platforms, with several different versions with as little differences as you can get away with, using the same engines... It works until the tactic becomes known, and as we all know, a tactic known is a tactic blown.

In it's heyday, the J-car, when combined as a platform, was THE largest selling compact car for many years.

GMC and Chevy trucks, when combined as a platform, outsell Ford trucks.

The problem is that the J-car had 5 different sales outlets, and the most riduculous of them (Caddy) cost GM a lot of image.

GMC and Chevy rely on two sales outlets to achieve their volume.

Now, GM is really in a predicament - they don't have the cash reserves to handle small changes in sales volume, so they can't afford to loose a single sale, much less three or five models. in a changing market that requires constant cash to keep up research and development. I think they DO have too many models, AND they have too many nameplates.

Roger Smith was a smart guy - I've never seen anyone who could leech a company as well as he did, line his nest with gold, stuff his pockets with platinum, and retire on the huge pension he set himself up with - and leave the shambles of a company behind for someone like Stempel to be scapegoat for. Smith did a lot of dumb things, but always seemed to get away with it. Total bean counter.

I still wonder what the heck everyone was thinking when they thought, "hey we have all these nameplates out there, let's MAKE UP ONE MORE!".

That's JUST what GM needed, ANOTHER nameplate just before and after two very rocky financial times (78-79, 88-89). More dealers. SEPARATE engineering, it's OWN powertrain that would be incompatible with any other... :rolleyes:

Again, I'll have to look back at the number 2 world carmaker - Toyota. They use engine families. They aren't searching for that big marketing idea that will sell their cars. They don't even have particularly good dealers or styling. A lot of what they do could be called badge engineering.

They sure know how to work together to engineer and produce vehicles, though. They aren't perfect, but they rarely duplicate effort, and are seldom scattered. Bit by bit they are attemting to become the number 1 vehicle maker in the world. Their engineering expertise is well-seasoned, centralized.

(no "this chevy guy is the best steering engineer in the world - they don't have anyone that can do powertrain, though, but those Oldsmobile engine trans guys are first class..." in toyota).

I think going to separate engines would be a disaster - the amount of duplication would quickly kill GM within a few years. Powertrains have the longest development and design time of any component in the car - longer even than exterior dies.

I certainly don't have the answers, but I am afraid the next few cuts at GM to same themselves will be like that Aron Ralston guy - the hiker that had to eventually cut his own trapped arm off to save his life.
 

·
Mod Emeritus
Joined
·
7,468 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Good post S-man. I cannot disagree, returning to seperate engines is no longer the answer.

Ford was brought up. I think Ford does an excellent job of platform sharing these days, and part of it has to do with seperate engines, or at least seperate versions. Its certainly different than how GM does it.

The new Focus platform underpins the Volvo S40 and Mazda3 in this country. Both do use different engines. Ford gave the Mazda6 a varient of the duratec V6. However, they let Mazda engineer their own heads, intake, etc to make it different than the Ford version (its 220 HP, compared to the Taurus's 200). Jag uses another different version in some of its cars, that has its own unique characteristics and power output. The major components are all shared, but each brand has managed to keep its own engine characteristics.

GM is a unique situation. However, as much as having totally different engines and management/design/engineering teams for each division will no longer work, neither will consolidating GM under one brand name.

Althought Toyota is a target, GM cannot use Toyota's business model to take them on. GM is its brands. Nobody buys a GM vehicle. If GM cannot manage to sell its brands anymore, they have already failed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
535 Posts
I also don't think different engines would change GM's fortunes at all. Nice nostalgia though. I think if you build top notch powertrains, it doesn't matter how many models have the same one. I think VQ3.5 as an example. Nissan has stuffed that into almost every vehicle it makes, from the Altima to Infinities to SUV's and trucks. It works pretty well for them.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,691 Posts
GM had separate engines in modern times. My 74 Firebird and My 79 Bonne both had unique to Pontiac engnies, a 350 with 6 qt oil capacity and a 301 4bbl respectively. Their big mistake came when they started popping Olds engnes under the hoods of Checy's and not telling anyone. Then they just did away with emgine nameplates altogether. I would rather buy a Pontiac with a Pontiac enhanced corporate engine if I had the chance. As it is, we don't know whether this ecotec is a chevy, pontiac, saturn or toyota. Ford, BTW as far as I know only uses Ford engines in anything domestic. A Mercury and a Lincoln say Ford under the hood.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,901 Posts
I think the basis of all the engines should be the same for engineering and cost cutting reason, however I believe each devision can give their own flavor to them still though. Some different parts on them etc.
 

·
Mod Emeritus
Joined
·
7,468 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
achieftain said:
Ford, BTW as far as I know only uses Ford engines in anything domestic. A Mercury and a Lincoln say Ford under the hood.
For the most part they do, but not universally anymore. The 2.3L PZEV motor in the Focus is from the Mazda side of the house.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,691 Posts
Fformula88 said:
For the most part they do, but not universally anymore. The 2.3L PZEV motor in the Focus is from the Mazda side of the house.
And they did have an SVO Taurus that advertised a Yamaha engine although I bet is was a Ford block. I was primarily thinking of Lincoln LS compared to Mustang, Explorer to Navigator. I had a Mazda built Ranger and I forget what the engine said on it.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
275 Posts
To me badge and shared engineering has aways made sense particularly after watching Pontiac make a silk purse out of a sow's ear with their V-8s for so many years.

Before throwing too many shoes consider the Pontiac V-8. It had the same genesis as the Chevvy small block, just was slightly larger. It really reached its peak in 1963 with the 421's just before GM pulled the plug on racing.

Meanwhile *every* other division was working on a new design for large displacement relatively short-stroke lightweight V-8s of which possibly the best for the street was the 455 Stage 2 Buick. Bores had more separation and lightweight casting techniques were in use.

The 455 W-30 Olds was great street engine also, only overshadowed by the 454 Chevvy that began life as a 396 (and this only shared cranks with the racing engines of the '70s). Even Cadillac had a new ground pounder of 500 cubic inches for the Eldo (and today is a popular replacement for GMC motor homes).

But Pontiac never got a new block, instead that 317 got bored and stroked until it could not go any further, and then they stroked it some more to 4.17" which made the 455 undersquare and needed an 80 psi oil pump to stay together in Super Duty form (the first 455s in 1970 were notorious for eating cranks & was one reason TransAms did not sell well in 71-72). Used to be an old joke about Pontiac engines: They could go to 7,000 rpm. Once.

Pontiac did get two new engines in the 70s, the 301 and the Iron Duke. If nobody remembers either, there is good reason.

Has been some time since anyone other than Cadillac had their own engines: the small block Chevvy 350 got just about everything large through the 80s and 90s. The "Quad-4" from Oldsmobile was the 2+ liter four of choice desite taking a day to replace a head gasket and I see a lot of Quad-4 in the Ecotec.

Buick's V-6 that had been sold to Jeep and then bought back as the 3.8 (Fastest stock Trans Am ever was the '89 with a Turbo 3.8 similar to the Grand Nationals) and then 3800 (now in its fourth iteration).

These three engines have powered just about every GM car (including some Cadillacs but excluding Saturn which does its own thing) for almost two decades (less said about the diesels the better).

So really GM began "badge engineering" back in the 70s (look at the engine disclaimer in the back of period brochures) and the reduction in the number of models was inevitable. My only real surprise was the selection of Oldsmobile to axe - I thought Buick would go first, perhaps the fact that they only have a limited number of four-doors and Olds had more models than anyone except Chevvy had something to do with it).

Now they are trying to move Saturn upscale to replace Olds which is really dumb when you think about it. What is going to happen is that GM is going to be all into "large" cars when gas prices peak and the market begins to look for economy again (and when the lemmings change direction, it is always ugly)
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
5,691 Posts
padgett said:
Pontiac did get two new engines in the 70s, the 301 and the Iron Duke. If nobody remembers either, there is good reason.
I had a 301 w/4bbl and lsd on a "79 Bonne'. Until something let loose at about 79000 miles it was as good an engine you could get. GM and all the others were still choking the H out of the engines for lean burn and emissions control. That's why they came up with the turbo-V6. Some cars from mid to late 70's would not get out of their own way (74 Nova 6).
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,570 Posts
It seems to me that they are getting to where they need to be now with engines. Same basic engines, different tuning and tweeking. Cadillac being the exception. If they want Cadillac to be the flag ship, and compete with Mercedes and Lexus, it needs it's own engine.

GM's problems aren't engines, it's the product. They have a bunch of divisions turning out over lapping similar product and none of it is very interesting. Even if they all had their own unique engines, their cars would still be a big snooze. Truth is, only gear heads care all that much about the branding of an engine. The general public just wants to know it works well. They don't care where it came from or it's pedegree.

In the world of power boats, a business that is doing well now, there must be at least 40 different boat makers out there. All of them use one of two engine and drive train options, Mercury or Volvo. What sets each boat apart is not the powerplant, but what they put it in. The failure at GM has everything to do with the end product and not so much with the powerplants.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,901 Posts
Having all the same engine is also extremely beneficial for the aftermarket as well. Every GTO and SSR owner gets the benefit of pretty much all the aftermarket parts created for the Corvette LS2, and the opposite is true too. Same for us. If the 2.4L VVT ECOTEC becaomes popular engine in the HHR, Cobalt, ION, Sky and various others then we'll greatly benefit from the work done on these engines as well.
 

·
Mod Emeritus
Joined
·
7,468 Posts
Discussion Starter #15
However, that brings two questions. One, does GM have too many engines? They currently are offering 5 ecotec variants in North America (2.0L S/C, 2.2L, 2.4L, low power 2.0L tubro Saab, high power 2.0L turbo Saab) plus a smaller one, 1.8L maybe, in Europe. Then there is the 60 degree V6,, currently seen in 3100, 3400, 3500 and soon 3900 variants. The 3800 and 3800 S/C. The high feature 2.8L Dohc, 2.8L Turbo Dohc, 3.6L Dohc, and a possibly 3.9L Dohc. That’s a lot of engines for under 300 HP. Especially when we are starting to see more V8’s in cars too, the Northstar in the Bonneville, a 5.3L in the Grand Prix/Monte Carlo, the LS2. Add to those the truck side, which has a few different V8’s, as well as different I4, I5, and I6 engines. That’s a lot of motors!

Second question, are these engines adequate. Particuarly, all the often criticized pushrod V6’s. They are cheap for GM to make, and offer competitive fuel economy and power for the $$, but they lag behind in specific power output, and running smoothness, two areas many import buyers say they prefer in their imports. GM has an answer in their high feature DOHC V6's, but they are keeping those for exlusive use in more expensive "premium" vehicles. Should they make the more widely available, and phase out more of the pushrods to create a "better product" as perceived by consumers?
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
8,901 Posts
There's actually at least another 5-10 varients of the ECOTEC in Euro area as well.
 

·
Mod Emeritus
Joined
·
7,468 Posts
Discussion Starter #17
brentil said:
There's actually at least another 5-10 varients of the ECOTEC in Euro area as well.
So its worse than I thought! :lol:
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top