Dick Lee in a blog posting on this site bemoans the state of the Big Three US automotive manufacturers. But his remedy for their maladies – a big dose of customer medicine – may not be as easy to implement as he thinks.
The automobile industry is stuck between a rock and a hard place.
On the one hand are the fickle tastes of customers. Tastes so fickle that customers often don’t really know what they want in an automobile themselves. Or so incongruent that the tastes are almost mutually exclusive, e.g having a safe car and having a light weight car. If you take the CRM concept literally, you would, to misquote Peppers & Rogers, end up providing each different customer with a different automobile.
On the other hand are the manufacturing realities of the automobile industry. New vehicles are enormously complex. They take about three years to design, develop & rollout to the market. And that is best practice. Customer tastes can change quite a lot in this time. And even the flexible manufacturing pioneerered by Toyota & GM at plants like NUMMI in the US can only produce a limited degree of flexibility in models.
That the big three have failed to act upon trends in the market is not in discussion. But the answer doesn’t lie in slavishly following customer fashio, rather, in a combination of understanding broader market trends, in allowing extensive dealer-level customisation (like the Scion does) and in the highest quality of automotive design and manufacturing. Oh, and a big dollop of luck too.
There’s plenty of life in the Big Three yet.
What do you think?
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