GM and Toyota: A Tale of Two Recoveries

Toyota Profilt

Takahiko Ijichi, Toyota's Senior Managing Director. center at a news conference at Toyota's Tokyo head office.

Toyota has recently announced its biggest quarterly profit in two years, as another iconic manufacturer says goodbye to a man who helped steer their company through some very choppy waters. General Motors will be losing their Chief Executive, Edward Whitacre, after being the company head for just over a year. But what a year it’s been. After seeking a government bailout from bankruptcy in 2009, it’s remarkable to see such vigor and renewal for a company formerly on its deathbed. Likewise, Toyota has been able to shrug off the PR nightmare of their cars being ‘death machines’ that I, for one, thought would take years to recover from. Not So. Both have beaten the odds and the recession, and are currently making money. Read more

No Longer A Saab Story

SAABIf you live in Sweden, as I do, you realize that as a foreigner (American) on Swedish soil I see Scandinavians in a light, culturally, that they often don’t see themselves. To cater to clichés, it is the land of ABBA, Ikea, and of course Saab cars. These things are held dear. Trust me. To poke fun at the sometimes, shoddy craftsmanship or slightly dodgy company politics of Ikea is akin to kicking a Swede in the groin. They love Ikea, wholeheartedly, and the same can be said for Saab. These are their global goliaths, and quite rightly, they’re proud.

So, it has been with great consternation, that everyone I know here in Stockholm has been following the latest details of what I called, until a few days ago, “the Saab story” and are now rejoicing that their once great brand is in hopefully better hands. Spyker, a small luxury Dutch carmaker is the company saving the day for almost 4,000 Swedish jobs, a national treasure, and well, a pretty great car that’s been in production for over seventy years. I think it’s probably fair to say that GM did a pretty poor job of selling a trustworthy and quirky (by American standards) brand to the public – a brand I can imagine wasn’t exactly a priority at GM HQ.

All brands have to paint an immediate picture in one’s mind, even if it’s a negative one. The problem, I think, with Saab is that they have been languishing without a brand presence since GM took over in 2000, and consequently, have been losing money for the Americans year after year. With a little TLC and creativity from their new Dutch parents, this could be a re-born brand and one that can compete on the battlefield of today’s automotive world. I, for one hope so, because I think the Swedes need their icons, and the world could certainly use a better car than GM’s hummer winning over the hearts of the population.