Table of Contents
Advanced Product Design Team
Common Threads of Success
Business and Marketing Strategy
Challenges for Saturn
Future for Saturn
America did not alone invent automobile, but America had been the leader in the automobile technology and manufacturing for several decades. During that time, American automobiles shared their technology and know-how with Japanese and German manufacturers. And, American companies did not pay a great attention to what Japanese and German manufacturers have learned from their American counterparts. During 1940s, American has produced 80% of the world's automobiles, by 1960s, this has dropped to 50% and currently, American manufacturers only produce about 25% of the cars manufactured in the world. Since 1980s, there has been increased competition from Japanese and German manufacturers. Along with other American companies, General Motors has recognized this problem and took the challenge and owed to compete with Japanese small car manufacturers. General Motors spun off a separate car manufacturing unit, fully independent entity and named Saturn. This case review focuses on the Saturn Cars, its marketing strategy, pros & cons, competition, and future for the Saturn will be discussed in this case review.
Wake Up Call:
As the competition for car manufacturers was growing, the steady decline as a leader in the small & mid size cars woke up General Motors to do something to stay ahead in the market place. In early 1980s, Alex C. Mair, and two other senior engineers discussed a new and small innovative car project. It was from that idea the Saturn automobile was born. GM established Saturn as a separate and independent subsidiary in 1985 with a total investment of about $5 billion. Former chairman of GM, Robert Smith thought Saturn as a laboratory to find and come-up with better ways to manufacture the future cars. GM wanted a truly separate Saturn away from traditional automobile hub Detroit. GM built the Saturn facility at Spring Hill, Tennessee. Saturn represented the single largest construction project in GM's history. Most of the GM's plants serve as assembly plants, and most of the GM's cars' were built using third party companies that provide parts.
Advanced Product Design Team:
By mid 1980s, the GM's advanced product research and design team has begun working on the project. Their approach was with a blank page, so they will not be influenced by management and other car designs at GM. However, Saturn insisted that it did not want to reinvent the wheel, but to see if there was a better a way of applying technology and employing creative talent in the making of a world class car in terms of quality and cost competitive manner. General Motors has selected a group of 99 people to head the initial Saturn efforts, comprising of design engineers, employees, union committee men, management and quality people to come-up with a design. At Saturn this team was called "Group of 99". The group of 99 spent about 2 months traveling in small groups and visiting various General Motors plants, and other companies in U.S. and abroad. The "Group of 99"'s objective is to find what works and what does not work. They have collected a list of threads which they call threads of success. The following is a list of threads that Saturn fully believes and committed to the threads.
Common Threads of Success:
Quality is a top priority to maintain customer satisfaction
Ownership by all, everyone is responsible
Equality is practiced, not just preached
Barriers to doing a good job are eliminated
Total trust is a must
People are the most important asset
Union and management are partners and share in the responsibility for assuring success of the enterprise
People are given responsibility and authority...
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