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GM Must Make Only One "Car For Every Purse And Purpose"

Re "Running out of gas" (News: The United States, Mar. 28): Your observation about General Motors Corp. (GM) making too many similar vehicles under too many brands is to the point, though there are 11 brands, not 8, if you include the international operations (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, and Vauxhall). In some countries the GM network also markets vehicles manufactured by GM Daewoo, Isuzu, Fuji (Subaru), and Suzuki.

This is where GM's strategic thinking has gone wrong all the way since the early 1960s: too many brands with too many similar products. GM abandoned the brilliant and simple approach that Alfred P. Sloan created with his idea of "a car for every purse and purpose." In the Sloan way of thinking, no in-house brand competed directly against another except to serve as the next step in the customer's climb up the ladder -- ending with Cadillac at the top.

A few examples from Europe illustrate the excess of bad thinking at work at GM today: a small Cadillac made in Sweden on an Opel platform -- to compete with BMW and Mercedes-Benz? A teeny-tiny Chevrolet from Daewoo, made in Korea?

If GM is ever to turn a profit from its automotive operations again, Chief Executive G. Richard Wagoner Jr. needs to sort out these strategic errors first. What GM needs now is fewer and better ideas instead of the ones we've heard before.

Gustav Hafr?n

Trout & Partners

Helsinki, Finland

As a key leader at an outsourcing company ("Outsourcing innovation," Special Report, Mar. 21), I have watched with interest how research and development outsourcing is done as a process. Gone are the days when we needed to sell aggressively. Now our clients tell us to "Roll out the pilot, and get ready for the big work."

But one issue remains. Countries such as India, while effectively handling work as it arrives, have yet to improve their higher education to a level where R&D outsourcing is seen as a proactive offering rather than in-bound work.

Sampath Rengachari

Mascon Global Limited

Isleworth, Britain

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