Sunday, November 15, 2009

Auto Industry MoonShot?

Working with the auto industry for soooo many years, I've seen / experienced a lot. 2009 has been a generational 'make or break' moment for Auto Mfgrs.

Yet, I still see far too much 'same old auto-thinking' for an industry-defining point in time. To me, the focus needs to go deeper than -

* Moving to 'Electric Avenue’ [Any LESS creative branding?],
* 'It's all about cost-cutting' as the 'fix' to everything,
* ‘Us vs Them’ heel-digging union battles,
* 'Back-to-Basics’ cheerleads still used by too many auto execs.

Instead, here are MY Top 10 action items / philosophical shifts that would make a difference, IMO –

10] Tear Up The History Book - Look forward, not back for new solutions / better product. It is NOT business / sales / anything as it used to be. And please make Camaro the last throwback design.

9] Think Near-Term AND Long-Term - I know sales are needed now, but living by the 30-day sales report will kill the future faster than....the way it killed Lehman.

8] Study Population / Household / Lifestyle / Income Trends - This is one area I believe the Industry is cluing in. But, applying this knowledge to product, sales, and MARKETING still shows wild swings in understanding.

7] If Auto / Mobility Is A ‘Necessity’ Of Life, Price Accordingly – MSRP, financing, leasing, the ZipCar model; Whatever it takes to make auto affordable. OR get in the transportation business; Whatever vehicles that presents [eg; a Mini, Saturn, or Smart scooter or pedal bike to me is not off-brand], including public trans [Remember GM busses and trains? GE doing an electric car to go with their jets engines and locomotives?].

6] Listen To My Mom! Live Within Your Means - Don’t spend if you don’t have [eg; pre-2009 GM, DCX]. Or at least, have a plan [Go Ford!].

5] Make EVERY CAR Count – Every model represents the brand, so every launch / every nameplate has to be a quality success. This ain’t sports. More wins vs losses is not good enough [Adopt the Saints / Colts / 2007 Patriots / UCLA Bruins roundball ‘win-it-all’ mindset].

4] Stop Commoditizing Your Product And Then Bitch That Buyer Passion For Auto Is Dying – Even today, ‘the DEAL’ / ‘the Guarantees’ lead the storytelling [At least Lutz, with his 'Perceptions' rant + Driving Challenges is focused on the cars].

3] Consult Great Minds Outside The Auto Industry, Especially For Marketing – This could be a rant all its own. But, I will leave it at this – I think Steve Jobs would market cars / run the biz differently. And my bucks would be on his success……

2] Set Product Priorities In Synch With Reality – Does Toyota and the world need the Lexus FL-A, right now? Every visit to an auto design studio leaves me in awe of the work and the talent, but the feeling that they are ‘playing with their toys’ in a workplace detached from the world.

1] See Right Now As A ‘MoonShot Moment' - I suggest the auto industry needs to stop the intramural competition at some level and band together find common solutions to make the 'Big Play' and save themselves from oblivion. This needs to happen at national [eg; US] and / or global levels [eg; vs China?]. Maybe it IS in play beyond my scope of awareness. Or maybe not, as too many execs still see this all as just another bump in the biz and sales will bounce back.

My fear is that without a philosophical change, the industry [or certain companies] will continue the ‘up / down’ cyclical performance right to their last day of business. Then, my desire to do more in Auto will have to be shifted to that FastFood Ramen concept.