I saw something on TV the other day that frustrated me.
before the Emmy Awards last night (I didn’t actually watch them) I noticed that The Buick Rendezvous is the official vehicle of the 2004 Emmy Awards. I am sure that securing this distinction cost GM a ton of money. The Rendezvous is a luxury crossover vehicle that rides on the same platform as the hideous looking Pontiac Aztek. Although the Rendezvous is somewhat better looking than its atrocious sibling, I wouldn’t call it attractive.
in addition to being the official vehicle of this year’s Emmy Awards, Buick has set up their own golf site. Buick’s primary demographic is people over 60 years old; with this site they’re attempting to entice younger buyers to buy their vehicles. The term ‘younger buyers’ may be a bit misleading in this case – Buick is aiming for the rapidly growing 40-50 year-old age segment. As a large portion of these buyers are looking for luxury SUVs and crossover vehicles, Buick has created the Rendezvous to match. They have chosen to pay Tiger Woods a great deal of money for his association with the Rendezvous – a 5 year deal worth 5 to 6 million dollars per year.
I don’t understand how American automakers haven’t learned a thing or two, as the Japanese did half a century ago, from the lessons of Dr. W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized post-war Japan’s industrial segment. Here is someone who took a nation known for creating cheap, inferior products and instilled within them the importance of quality. Nowadays Japanese automakers create some of the finest cars and trucks on the market. Very rarely do you see Honda or Toyota paying tens of millions of dollars to celebrities to endorse their cars. They simply don’t have to – they put their money where it counts, in creating attractive quality vehicles.
the Buick Rendezvous, on the other hand, as with most GM products, is of inferior quality. Cheap materials are liberally used throughout this luxury SUV. Compared to other luxury SUVs on the market it is underpowered, outclassed, less luxurious and less attractive.
in the face of overwhelming evidence, GM can’t seem to grasp the fact that more than ever, today’s consumers are drawn to comfortable, powerful and fun vehicles backed by quality construction. The Chevrolet S-10, another GM product, has stayed practically the same (with no significant upgrades) since 1994 (actually late 1993) when its current iteration was first introduced. That’s 10 years! The automotive industry has come a long way since then. Compare this with the Honda Accord, a Japanese car that, similarly upgraded in 1994, has received 2 significant (and 2 minor) upgrades since then. It received an upgrade earlier this year not because it needed one – its previous model was still selling extremely well – but because Honda goes to great pains to upgrade their models every few years to ensure that their brand remains a fresh and attractive choice to buyers.
if GM spent 30 million dollars to learn the lesson that quality is important, a piece of information that I’d gladly tell them for free, it would be money extremely well spent. As it stands they are using it to pay Tiger Woods for an association with their Buick brand to help sell vehicles that are inferior by design. And who knows how much more money GM shelled out to flout the Rendezvous as the official vehicle of the Emmy Awards. Here’s hoping that GM decides to reevaluate its priorities in the future.