No. 975
December 5, 2018
 

About The UjianNasional

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with Ujian-nasional.info, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  ). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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Tuesday
Sep022008

RANTS #461


September 3, 2008

Detroit has lost the “image” war, and now it’s time to move on.

By Peter M. De Lorenzo

Detroit. It’s all over but the shouting, hand-wringing and whining, but the facts are clearer than ever: America doesn’t care about Detroit, and Americans can’t be convinced to abandon their ingrained - and mostly inaccurate - perceptions that Detroit builds “inferior” vehicles.

I have been writing about the “perception gap” that exists between the quality and integrity of the cars and trucks that Detroit builds and the negative perception of these vehicles that a growing number of Americans share for several years now. And it has been made clear to me by the overwhelmingly negative tone of the emails we receive, and from the comments I get in person from people on the road – and from the blatant anti-Detroit stance that exists in the majority of the media – that the battle to win the hearts and minds of Americans is over for Detroit, and there’s no amount of advertising and PR spin money that will change the negative tide mounting against it.

The reality of the situation is that people just don’t care. I’ve heard it countless number of times in countless number of ways: “It won’t affect me if Detroit goes down, why should I care?” “ Detroit deserves what they’re getting.” “It’s just another tired industry that will be replaced by something else, so what?”

And for the denizens of the Detroit 2.0 to actually think that there’s enough time and money to counteract this negativity is a false hope.

Because this isn’t the same America that mustered the will and the fierce pride to counteract global evil in the Second World War. This isn’t the same America whose “blue sky” thinking and unbridled creativity responded to a challenge and propelled the rocket age to new heights. And this isn’t the same America that once shared a common purpose and perspective on what this country stands for.

Instead, this country has become a jaded and fractionalized nation of consumer sponges driven by the lackadaisical mantra of “whatever” and “what’s in it for me?” A nation whose people couldn’t be bothered with such esoteric concepts as this country’s eroding manufacturing base and the nation’s burgeoning inability to lead on the world stage.

So where does Detroit go from here?

I believe that turning away from this debilitating quest of changing the American consumer mindset by massaging the message and endlessly “cooking” the formula of communicating Detroit ’s fundamental goodness will actually prove to be oddly freeing for the Detroit manufacturers (at least the ones still standing by 2011). Because then they can focus all of their attention on the only thing that can ultimately save them, which is building products that consumers find compelling in every respect.

(This is much tougher than it sounds, as GM in particular has found out of late. The Cadillac CTS and Chevrolet Malibu are fine cars, but GM still has to cajole consumers into buying them. Yes, these excellent new products are making headway for GM in the market, but the road is painfully slow and deliberate. GM has found out the hard way that this “perception gap” - which was 25 years in the making - cannot be changed overnight)

That GM and Ford are finding the road to success in global markets easier than in their own backyards is even more reason to shift their priorities. The North American market will be in freefall for these two manufacturers until they hit bottom, and then they can slowly build it back up from there. And the only way that is going to happen is by building products that bristle with advanced technology, impressive efficiency and bold design. Products that, in the end, simply cannot be found anywhere else, which admittedly is a very tall order.

For Detroit to continue down this path of beating the proverbial dead horse – in this case courting an American consumer public that frankly doesn’t give a shit – with countless messages about what they’re doing better and what’s going right is a monumental waste of time and money.

The image war is over for Detroit, and it’s time to move on.

At this juncture Detroit has only one move left, and that is to get through to the American consumer by building outstanding products that have no “ifs,” “ands,” or “buts” attached to them. Machines that not only stand out, but stand above the rest. Anything less than that kind of superlative executional effort will hasten the demise of these companies altogether, or at least marginalize them into becoming regional players in their home country.

Thanks for listening, see you next Wednesday.