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Few things in life bother me more than management teams of various companies conveniently blaming their shortcomings on the macroeconomic environment. Never mind that before the slow-down their company wasn’t in a much better situation.
When was the last time Chevrolet, Ford, or Chrysler produced the best-selling car in the country? Over the last ten years—besides the massive, gas-guzzling SUVs that lacked any significant innovation—what other claims to fame do these companies have?
Is it really that complicated to figure out that the market responds positively to cars like Accord, Camry and Prius? How many millions of these models do Toyota and Honda need to sell in order for the domestic manufacturers notice the trends?
Interestingly enough, I see similarities between the problems plaguing the domestic "big three" and a company in a very different industry, Yahoo. They all try to solve their problems through deal-making, rather than turning to innovation and a long-term, viable, differentiated strategy. Combining Chrysler and GM for the cash is a horrible premise and, for synergies associated with volume and size, is an even worse idea. You get to the right volume by introducing models that consumers want to own, not by combining models that should have been cut long ago and will continue to lose market share.
Here is a 5-point plan that I think will go a long way toward putting the American car makers back on the road:
To get the above done, you don’t need money from the government. In fact, I suggest that you stop wasting your time in Washington, and instead focus your efforts on fixing your own problems and cut enough to reach sustainability without counting on outside help. Own your problems and seek opportunities in the current market.
We have a nation of 300 million and a planet of over 6 billion screaming for cheaper, smaller, and more fuel-efficient cars. All car makers will be doing exactly that over the next 5 years. How will your approach be different than the simple, generic response we have come to expect form Detroit? Give it a try and surprise us with a response that does not further confirm the depressed nature of the industry but, rather, will uplift us by communicating your visionary strategy for the next decade or two and live up to your own, legendary past.
We’ll all be there to cheer for you and will drop our Toyotas and Hondas so we can once again own a symbol of American ingenuity.
My sincerest wishes for your success.
Payam Zamani, CEO, Reply.com & A founding father of the online automotive industry