Should GM Change Its Name?

General Motors
General Motors

It is an idea that has been floating around Detroit among those in the auto industry. Should General Motorschange its name? When I first heard this question, I chuckled and thought, "Would it really be wise to throw out a well known name after 100 mostly successful years?"

As you think about it, keep in mind it's a question GM CEO Fritz Henderson was asked yesterday during a web chat with reporters. He answered by saying no. But I get the sense this idea will keep popping up. Largely because many people see GM as a broken company that needs a fresh start. Bankruptcy will clean up the balance sheet, but it won't heal the auto makers battered image.

So what if General Motors re-named itself? Would it help the company as tries to win back those who have sworn off GM in past? I doubt it. Frankly, it will take a lot more than a new name. It will take changing the GM culture and more importantly consistently building cars and trucks that are winners. Ask anyone who has driven a Malibu after years of avoiding Chevy cars. They'll tell you how surprised they were at the ride and feeling. That's what GM needs to do so it can come back from bankruptcy.

Also, while GM is tarnished, the Chevy, Cadillac and GMC names are not. Those three brands (along with Buick) are the ones the public associates with. Brand analysts will tell you that all three still have favorable ratings with the car buyers. Buick still connects with older buyers. If these brands no longer are part of GM but instead are with a corporate parent of a different name, would that help them? I'm not sure.

GMAC recently changed its name to Ally. It got little attention and you can argue people do not have the emotional connection with a financial firm that they do with their auto company. Also, remember Nissan used to be Datsun. But re-naming GM would be different. Let me know if you think General Motors should not longer be General Motors. More importantly, would a new name change your opinion of the struggling auto maker.

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Questions? Comments?