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“Companies sometimes do the most interesting things when they’re desperate,” notes Bill Visnic in his report for AutoObserver.com. “Desperation in 2009 – as defined by coming up some 6 million sales short of the industry’s glory days of just three years ago – generated products and strategies that ran the gamut from ridiculous to sublime.”
Here are a few of the best ideas from the auto industry in 2009:
- Hyundai Assurance: A clever response to the nation’s epidemic employment anxiety.
- Cutting Capacity: Overcapacity was a decades-old problem, and the recession forced everybody to deal with it.
- Hatchback Sedans: Auto companies are taking intelligent chances with this practical, useful and more fuel-efficient alternative to SUVs.
- Talking Up The Volt: The Volt is impressive, progressive and potentially game-changing. Yeah, GM’s gone a little overboard, but the company is right to hype the Volt.
- Paperless Owners Manuals: Beginning with ’10 Chryslers, searchable DVDs will replace 900-plus tons of the ignored paper Chrysler plops in glove compartments every year.
- The Ford Fusion: Case study in how to take some pretty old bones and keep them going on the cheap – and win accolades and top-ten best-seller status in the process.
Here are a few of the worst ideas from the auto industry in 2009:
- The Dealer Dump: Were GM and Chrysler overdealered? Yes. Was this heavyhanded gambit the fix? Nope.
- Giving Up On Diesels: “Diesels cost too much,” companies from Ford to Honda to Nissan bleated, but don’t ask us how anybody plans to get their fleets to the federally-mandated 35 miles per gallon by 2016 when the Honda CR-V struggles to get 25.
- Foot-Dragging On Floormats: Toyota displayed a magnificent amount of corporate irregularity in dealing with the situation, creating another vivid gash in the company’s formerly impregnable reputation.
- GMC Lives: Why is the division that epitomizes the rampant, marketing-driven rebadging that led GM to the brink still hanging around?
- The 230-MPG Volt Claim: Overpromising on the Volt’s fuel-efficiency capabilities seemed a strategy destined for ridicule and smacked of the bad old days of GM marketing-by-hocus-pocus mentality.
- Whining About Executive Pay Limits: A million bucks, give or take, should be enough to lure a CEO with a brain even if decades’ worth of ya-won-the-lottery exec pay packages couldn’t get it done for GM up to now.
- Internet and TV On Board: More on-board distractions? Sounds like great news for airbag suppliers and insurance companies, though.
- The Insight: Honda is building a case for those who say the company is losing its famed engineering edge.
- Porsche Is Assimilated: Look, we like Volkswagens. But the company that uses its legion of econobox brands to knock out the majority of Europe’s mainstream cars – good as they are – shouldn’t have its fingers in Porsche’s sauerkraut.
“How do ‘Cash for Clunkers’ and the bailouts and bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors rank among the year’s best and worst decisions? In the mixed bag category, for obvious reasons,” explained Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs who contributed to the AutoObserver.com report.