The end of the Sloan plan was this. Yes moving to try to fill every notch with one division had a price. This price a move to corporate platforms and engines where each division lost its true identity. This still plagues Cadillac today as it once was a company that offered coach built cars and now gives you a sedan on a Camaro chassis and a truck engine.
The high cost of development has exceeded what most companies can afford so today we are seeing all brands pick snd choose what to offer and what will make money. They no longer can satisfy every craving.
Many have had to merge and even companies like Honda are going to GZm for EV tech to save money. That shows how expensive it is today.
Then you also have this social factor. In the past people identified who they were by their car. Their brand was a standard bearer of their status. Being a Packard man meant more than your choice of car.
Today vehicles are more about transportation than status. Rich can drive anything from a BMW to a Chevy Truck or Civic. Too often I see people buy a BMW and find they can afford the car but not the repair.
As for Tesla. They are a true product of hype snd promotion. They did not invent the EV. They really don’t offer much more than what anyone is or will have. What they did was prove with the right Musk hype they could sell a EV at a price no one expected would work. Now that the others have advanced their programs their scale will overwhelm Tesla. They will bring better and more advanced models at a faster and more steady on time pace to market than Tesla.
Tesla may survive but it will be based more on their cult following but if they lose that they could just be another merger.
The bottom line today is that the vehicle is just an appliance of getting some place. Affordability and reliability are king today not image so much.
The future will be interesting as we see the change over of vehicles to EV. In some ways very sad but with the cost savings in development it could lead to vehicle that will be much different and built in lower volumes and verities.
We also may see things we have not planned on.
We also need to guard against tech from also controlling us. In the UK they are pushing to force the cars to adopt a GPS speed limiter. The limiter will prevent you from going over the speed limit. Imagine trying to get out of the way of a tornado?
FYI people years ago bought cars more often for two reasons. One they were cheaper and more affordable to the average wage owner. Two they fell apart sooner important many cases. Rust engine issues etc. We see well restored classics today that are pampered but back in the day that hemi Road Runner would last about 5 years in the salt and was not worth the investment to repair.
I drove a 11,000 mile 82 Camaro not long ago. It was a mess but i5 was in show room condition. The carpet did not fit. Major Orange Peel and other things. Glove box not aligned etc. well restored cars do nothing to help remind how bad things were.
Another great read. You make me wish I’d gone the author route vs. a near 30-year career with an OEM in the very industry you write about; something I knew I wanted to do from whatever moment kids realize such things. There’s always retirement I suppose, but who wants to hear from an X’er?
Remember that pop-culture keeps image alive to an extent that many people don’t realize it’s dead. Cadillac may have been un-hip by 1995, when the movie was released, but would anyone have believed a smooth-operator like Casino's Ace Rothstein would be blown up in a Toyota instead of an Eldorado? (As it turns out, the movie’s car-casting was dead-on here.) Thus Cadillac still had an image and even if it wasn’t exactly the stuff of glossy catalogs and ad campaigns, it was better than "rental upgrade".
Back to my original point… I’m doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do career-wise in 1990 and yet I’m profoundly unsatisfied. If I had it to do over again, I could think of a half-dozen other careers I’d chose over OEM prototype development. I came up in a time when looking at Motor Trend spy photos was a must-do whenever I passed a magazine rack. When a clandestine skunk works could put together a modern-day Cobra using minivan parts and a V10. I’ve been paid (while earning defined pension benefits) to drive 160 MPH on a closed course but that was near the beginning of my career and the tail end of an era. My timing was perfect for a 30-year career as the sun sets on vehicle image.
Does anyone really want a career in a commodities business? I suppose it’s cool if you do it to pay bills and have hobbies like golf, drinking, or watching other people play sports. But what if you were hoping your employer would sponsor your weekend drag car or give you the time off for a one-lap-of-America run? Unfortunately for me, they’d be much more interested in me if I could work one of their products into the background of a social media/social justice campaign. “Could you be seen in brand-logoed attire, stepping out of the product just close enough to be in the frame with the protest, but not close enough to actually have the car burned? That would be super! Thanks.”
So “meh.” I consider myself lucky to have experienced any of it, to have crossed paths with well-known names, or sometimes to have even just laid a tire on the same hallowed ground. Even more lucky to have my health and a start young enough to have a second career after I turn in my goodbye paperwork. But make no mistake, manufacturers are signing their own death warrants with an assortment of useful idiots providing the pen and the government form. I don’t even bother to look when something passes by wearing camouflage. “It’s another size of SUV/people-mover running the same electric motor as another people-mover, but with a different battery. Who cares?” I don’t attach any more image/status/excitement to a cordless drill.
Well, I don't know very many blue-collar workers who are passionate about their jobs either...
We are passionate about drinking though! Booze is the great equalizer of social status.