Saturday, November 28, 2009

Out of your pocket and straight to the tables: The new GM in a nutshell

As I browsed through the Sunday NY Times this morning, I came across the automobile section, offering a front page dish about "Cadillac’s new CTS Sport Wagon." Naturally curious as to how GM is blowing through our collective tax money with the reckless abandon of Robert Downey Jr. on a coke binge, I read on.

GM, apparently banking on the "Europeanization" of the American car market post-recession, has wagonized their longtime Cadillac offering, the CTS. The idea is, with the face of the American automobile changing, consumers will start to rethink their need for a larger vehicle, and, like the whole of Europe, begin to rationalize the notion of a station wagon. How very quaint and trusting of GM, in a nation where soccer moms in suburban middle America have spent nearly 40 grand buying 8 mpg SUVs to haul their 2.5 children around, to think that the car buying habits of this nation were based on logic and rationale.

No doubt GM has based some of their marketing strategy on the initial success of Chrysler's late Dodge Magnum, a vehicle that achieved its success due to a variety of options, muscular looks, available V8, and relatively manageable base price. The collective conscience of decadent America flocked to a vehicle that could offer them Good Ole' American V8 Power in the vicinity of 20-25 grand. Therein, however, lies the problem for Cadillac and its new offering. Whereas the Magnum had everything from affordability, power, and everyman appeal, the CTS Wagon offers none of this. At over $40,000 MSRP, sheer price alone places it firmly out of the reach of the average American consumer. Furthermore, without a V8 option, it doesn't even appeal to a niche market which, being completely frank, is not a market to put all your chips on. Logical sense and previous buying habits in this country say that the market GM is shooting for would sooner buy a luxury SUV than a redesigned sedan with the dreaded "wagon" label stapled to its stigma.

As for GM's aspirations to compete in the European station wagon market, they too are so dreadfully misplaced, I wonder exactly what they happen to be paying the supposed "marketing specialists" who informed them that this was a good plan. Those in the market in Europe (or the US for that matter) for a $40,000 station wagon would much rather place their money down on companies who have a tried-and-true line of wagons; BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and the like. GM, and Cadillac especially, trying to inspire confidence in their infiltration of the European luxury market after a collective continent watched them blow their money for over 3 decades on low-quality, built in obsolescence is somewhat like asking the liberal community to trust Rush Limbaugh making a Democratic run for president.

GM has been down this road before and has obviously not learned from its monumental mistakes. The Saab 9-2X, a grand finale of GM's nearly 2 decade long bungling of the brand, is a shining example of a lesson unlearned. For those who are unaware, the 9-2X was a Subaru WRX wagon rebadged as a Saab, filled with slightly more accoutrements, and priced nearly $10,000 higher than its Subaru counterpart. Saab buyers, a community nearly as cult-oriented as the late inhabitants of Jonestown, showed GM in abysmal sales over the course of 2 years that they are NOT in the market for a rebadged Japanese sport wagon. Conversely, Subaru buyers, along a similar time frame, informed GM that they would much rather go straight to the source and buy a luxury packaged Subaru than an awkward looking bastard child with a virtually taped on, disproportionate Saab front end.

A market with no cars, and cars with no market. GM is making confident strides in a direction that shows they have no idea how to spend the money that we as a nation so reluctantly gave them barely a year ago. I feel like some sort of loan shark, except unlike a loan shark, I can't (or perhaps shouldn't is a better word) stroll into GM head offices and start cutting off fingers and breaking kneecaps with a baseball bat. After all, we loaned them that money to pay down the mortgage, not to drive right to Vegas and put it all on red ••

Monday, November 23, 2009

The South Philly Mummers: A portrait of embarrassing Americanism

As I walked down to Superfresh in South Philly to get my flu shot (which, by the way, are now apparently more in demand than elephant tusks and flasks of albino blood) I was once again struck by the phenomenon that is the practice sessions of the Mummers in the parking lots under 95.

When every vapid, overweight decaying blob in South Philly, who spends the other 7/8 of their year voting Republican, bitching about gay marriage and enthusiastically buying pickup trucks they will never need gathers to stick peacock feathers up their ass and practice choreographed group dance moves to the smooth tunes of the Village People, the dramatic irony has surely not escaped my grasp. More stunning still, is that the the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and general stench of impending death is not only somehow higher than it was when I passed this crowd last year, but is also impressive by even American standards. Watching a crowd of XXL sweat suit clad percentage points chug bud light (it's ok, it's low carb now!) at 10:30 am on a Sunday morning while talking about their new Camaro is a humbling sight for even the strongest of resolves.

On the bright side, perhaps if other countries viewed tapes of this momentous event, it could be construed as a government funded group exercise program aimed at lowering the constantly embarrassing weight statistics of this great nation.

God Bless America.