Saturn Will Be Knocked Out of the Customer Orbit

GM will likely divest the Saturn arm of its auto offerings. The word is that a private equity firm, Black Oak, is seeking to purchase the distrubtion portion of the Saturn business and source the cars from a supplier. Probably looks really good on paper.

The author of the blog post, Phil Lebeau, wonders aloud: "What are the odds a new Saturn will succeed?"

I suppose that depends on your definition of success. Regardless of THAT pointless debate, I have a million questions:

"How does adding a thicker layer of insulation between the customer and manufacturer bring the enterprise-wide value stream closer together?" Sure, Saturn has this distrubtion layer built into its current system, but I wonder if it is currently more integrated now than it will be if the distribution and manufacturing elements of "Saturn" are financially disconnected. One problem that I wonder about is that of warranties. Who covers the warranty? The distribution arm, who had the narrowly defined responsibility of delivering a vehicle? Or the third party manufacturer, who actually built the vehicle? What is the current situation with the big three? Who covers warranty costs now? How would this change? Perhaps the answer lies with Dodge and Chrysler's current situation? How are they handling it?

Another question: "How does customer feedback make it's way back to the kaizen idea point?" Toyota is well known for its tight collaboration from customer to supplier, one Toyota mechanism for this collaboration is the Chief Engineer. Would the silo effect of separating distribution and manufacturing prevent this level of collaboration from happening? Sure, the manufacturer can make cost savings, but how will they know that changes do not adversely affect customer perception of value, safety, performance, etc., before it is too late? Again, I wonder if the feedback loop is broken because distribution creates an invisible wall between customer and manufacturer.

Anyway, just a few thoughts. To answer Mr. LeBeau's question though, my gut feel says that a new Saturn will be knocked off the customers' orbit path.



At April 15, 2009 at 9:02 PM , Blogger Andy Wagner said...

This is the corporate equivalent of an appendix transplant.


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