Without Mr. Goodwrench, will Chevrolet Service be any Different? No… possibly Better.

General Motors recently announced that it was dropping Mr. Goodwrench, their ubiquitous brand for service across all their products. They are now moving to brand-focused service for their remaining four car lines; Buick Certified Service, Cadillac Certified Service, Chevrolet Certified Service, and GMC Certified Service. This is, finally, the right direction for them to be taking.

GM was guilty for decades of not understanding the importance of building unique and differentiated brands. Not that a long list of brilliant marketers didn’t try to convince them. While they had different names and divisions, there was, over a long period of time, little effort in building powerfully unique brands. GM constantly focused on shared manufacturing and design ideas. For example, for years they sold a common chassis across different brands and consumers and dealers knew it. That is why they suffered, and why foreign brands entered and trumped the market. This has finally changed.

Mr. Goodwrench was introduced in 1977 as a way to bring together the diverse service departments across the wide array of GM franchise dealers. The original concept was based on a “set of service standards”, which included training and parts availability. The theory was that GM should ensure one standard of service across all their products. This was the promise.

However, what GM did not truly believe in was the uniqueness of each of its brands. By doing this they missed the opportunity to build very powerful and distinct franchises that they could own forever.¬† For example, there was a time that Cadillac stood for the ultimate in luxury. It was the dream of many approaching retirement to finally own a Cadillac. But GM let the brand essence of luxury slide, and this left a gaping hole for Mercedes, BMW, and even Toyota/Lexus to walk in. Their loss of focus led them to introduce an Italian design in 1973 – the Allant√©. GM thought that a sexy Pininfarina body design would translate into luxury, but it didn’t. And there was little discussion at GM at the time about what Cadillac stood for. In 1982, this was followed by another off-brand idea, a smaller fuel-efficient car, the Cimarron, built on the common J-body, as an economy offering. Imagine, a leader in luxury focusing on economy? And by the way, the name “Cimarron” evoked economy, instead of the alternative many at GM liked at the time, “Caville”, born from the other Cadillac names Seville and DeVille.

On top of this, because service is so much a part of a dealer’s long-term customer value, by offering a generic GM service concept (Mr. Goodwrench), the brand missed the opportunity to redefine service from the point of view of the luxury buyer’s mindset. So you got OK service when a Cadillac owner should have had “white glove” service. (By the way, I drive a Lexus mostly because I get amazing “luxury” treatment throughout the entire service process. To me, it is a significant differentiator).

Now imagine this across each of the GM brands from performance brands like Pontiac to GMC trucks. Each should have had more brand specific service. It would have ultimately helped the dealers.

So the message here is that smart marketers must look at the entire brand mix and ensure that every part of the consumer experience is consistent and unique to that brand’s promise. The move away from Mr. Goodwrench is a telling lesson. It is back to brand basics. GM is now on the right track.

I’ll leave it to readers to think about what other brands suffer from sharing generic brand elements when they should be doing things that are completely supportive of a specific brand. Can you think of any?