David opens the book by describing his frustration when going to the internet, in casual shopping mode wanting to learn about and compare car models, and finding only 0% financing come-ons and old-school advertising. This has changed to some extent in recent years. His anecdote was used to illustrate that Detroit’s “Big 3” (they aren’t the biggest three anymore) are clueless when it comes to offering useful content and building a relationship with the prospective buyer.
The irony is that Saturn, the one company that did indeed introduce you to the people who built the cars (in their ads), offered straight-forward no-haggle pricing, and pioneered other trust and reputation-building efforts, is now going out of business. They never really made any money. Great cars though – I drive and enjoy a Saturn Aura XR now, and my family members have owned many. Customer loyalty seemed to be high – the ION won the Polk Automotive Loyalty Award four years in a row (2004-2007 model years).
Lessons learned? The auto industry is a very crowded marketplace, and it’s not hard to find a high-quality car, no matter what your price range. Saturn also lost some of its unique positioning when it started glomming onto GM’s platform-oriented models. Perhaps the question is: was Saturn’s “voice” perceived to be sincere, or it did it seem more like a calculated advertising scheme?