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GM's plan to outmaneuver Toyota

How General Motors will use its eight U.S. brands to to attack and outflank competitors and take back market share.

Building the future
Building the future
The idea that General Motors needs to shed divisions like Buick, Hummer and Saab to compete against Toyota has a certain common-sense appeal. After all, Toyota is continuously gaining U.S. market share with just three brands: Toyota, the Lexus luxury line and the tiny Scion brand of small, trendy compact cars.

But by shedding divisions, GM could give up its greatest competitive advantage. Because Toyota must sell a large number of vehicles through just two main channels, it's forced to ply the middle of the road. It would be like GM selling just Chevys and Buicks.

But General Motors can indeed have it both ways. While Chevrolet goes middle of the road, GM's other divisions can cover the side roads, back alleys and unpaved trails.

That's exactly the approach that GM is taking, according to GM marketing executives and division heads.

It's hardly an altogether novel idea but in the past its been more talk than practice. A new, more disciplined approach to differentiating GM's various brands is only now beginning to bear real fruit.

Platform sharing must go on, of course. The whole point of maintaining distinct brands is to maximize the sales potential of GM's investment in research and manufacturing by creating multiple products that share underlying components.

While things are moving in the right direction, much remains to be done.

Last updated December 31 2007: 7:45 AM ET









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