Stock in General Motors hit its lowest point since 1933 last week, but it’s not clear if GM can fashion another rebound similar to the one that not only got it through the Great Depression, but made it into the world’s pre-eminent automaker for decades.
For one thing, consider the difference in the quality of the cars GM produces today with that of more than 75 years ago. Not the technological quality, which, of course, far surpasses anything engineers could have imagined in 1933.
Instead, consider the makes, models and variations that General Motors produced, even at the depths of the Great Depression.
At the top of the line was, as today, the Cadillac. Despite the tough times, Cadillac fielded an extensively revamped lineup of V-8s, V-12s and V-16s for 1933. The boxy look of the 1920s had begun to give way to the streamlined look of the ’30s, which included fully skirted, flowing fenders and a graceful “windsplit” veed grill, according to the Motor Era website.
A step below the Caddy was the LaSalle, which was referred to as a “baby Cadillac,” and was nearly as elegant.
General Motors also produced such makes as Chevrolet, Oldsmobile, Buick and Pontiac. While these weren’t as expensive or luxurious as the Cadillac, all featured impressive styling and tended to include classy models. Each had many different variations.
Take the 1933 Buick. It came in four models, the Series 50, Series 60, Series 80 and Series 90. The first three featured five different variations, ranging from the Series 50 Business Coupe to the Series 80 four-door convertible Phaeton.
Then there was the Series 90, which came in four variations: the two-door Victoria Coupe, four-door club sedan, four-door five-passenger sedan, and four-door seven-passenger sedan.
Even though Buick of the 1930s was definitely considered a step down from Cadillac in the GM pecking order, Buick’s bigger models were far classier, respectively speaking, than anything the company currently manufactures.
Today, Buick produces three models: The LaCrosse, Lucerne and Enclave. The LaCross comes in the CX, CXL and Super styles; the Lucerne comes in the CX, CXL, CXL Special Edition V6 and Super; and the Enclave comes in the CX AWD, CX FWD, CXL AWD and CXL FWD styles, according to the company’s website.
While Buick makes some of the more attractive GM cars being produced today, its variety is nowhere near that of 1933, 1953 or even 1973. In reality, GM has been reducing consumer options in terms of makes and models for many years.
Not surprisingly, consumers have taken notice and many have taken their business elsewhere.
The beauty of the free market system is that consumers are free to pick and choose what fits them best. If General Motors is no longer willing or able to provide choices car buyers desire, there are other automakers who will.
Three-quarters of century ago, GM’s stock price was near what it is today and there was considerable trepidation about the auto giant’s future.
The difference between then and now, though, is that GM understood that its survival depended on satisfying customers and potential customers, not relying on getting a federal bailout.