Warren is driving the brand new Saturn Aura XE sedan all by himself. He's surprised - .... this is a first for him....
Warren Brown is an automotive journalist for the Washington Post and he's participating in a "ride and drive" exhibition put on by General Motors for their 2007 model cars.
By handing over the keys, GM is breaking out of their neurotic habit of sending PR types and spin doctors along to be the talking heads at new vehicle introductions. They are trying mightily to be "the new GM." The new GM is eager to let product quality speak for itself.
Not only does Warren get to take the new Saturn sedan out for a spin by himself, but GM has freed their engineers and designers to do what they love and do best .... - happily answer any questions these journalists and industry analysts ask about their market-ready vehicles.
Reporter Brown says this is "the first genuinely likeable, got-to-have, give-me-that-one sedan to come from Saturn." He also thinks GM executives are about to be sorely disappointed!
I have to agree with him, for three reasons:
First: GM will learn that quality doesn't say as much as they hope -- and they're hoping for a lot. GM saw its U.S. auto business lose $10.6 billion last year!
Quality doesn't say "I'm the one– you've got to buy me!" GM executives said their objective was to give consumers more than they expect. That message of quality might have resonated 20 years ago, but not today. Now it just says, "Count us in!" Great product quality simply serves as "table stakes" in today's marketplace - essential to success, but not sufficient to guarantee success.
The Japanese have a word for this type of quality: atarimae hinshitsu. It means "taken-for-granted quality." The marketplace may think, "GM is finally serious about getting me as a customer." But that's not the same as getting the sale.
Second: GM will eventually learn that product quality is not the whole story. Saturn meant to lead the way by offering a different kind of car company to go with the different kind car they were selling. I'm not convinced GM has that kind of story to tell... yet.
That may be why the current Deutsch/LA ads are so goofy .... GM cars levitating out of traffic. Chief Creative Officer, Eric Hirschberg, says he's trying to create the same sort of community feeling among owners of GM cars that Harley Davidson owners feel for each other. Huh?
Third: GM will learn there is more than one kind of quality. Robert Pirsig called it "romantic quality." Again, the Japanese have a name for it: miryoku teki hinshitsu. It means the "bewitching" or "enchanting kind of quality."
I truly want GM to succeed and I am glad they are adding "quality" to their vocabulary while delivering that promise in their cars. They just need to expand their definition of what quality means.
So, how much for a good Japanese dictionary?
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