GM plans to eliminate models as part of marketing strategy


DETROIT -- Ronald L. Zarrella, the outsider hired by General Motors to impart distinct and vivid personalities to its muddled divisions and models, emerged from four months of studying the company yesterday to announce that he agreed with the basic marketing strategy GM already had in place.

But he is clearly fine-tuning the strategy. While General Motors has no plans to kill or merge any of its seven divisions, it will do away with some car or truck models, Mr. Zarrella said in a speech yesterday to the Automotive Press Association.

General Motors, the largest automaker, has too many car and truck models -- up to 77, he said, adding that "the challenge of the future is to increase total sales volume with fewer vehicle-line brands." He declined to say what lines might be eliminated.

Mr. Zarrella also provided a glimpse into the sorts of technology he is hoping to harness in better differentiating GM's brands. He offered visions of lasers in Pontiac showrooms to captivate young people, and of Buick showrooms that resemble country clubs to put its older customers at ease.

Mr. Zarrella, who is vice president and group executive for sales, service and marketing in GM's core North American operations, said he hoped to hire 20 to 30 "brand managers" by the end of the year -- perhaps turning to companies like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble for some of them -- to nurture an image for each car and truck.

He also said that sales were slower than expected in April, and that GM now expected a mild downturn in the U.S. car and truck market in 1997. Previously, GM economists had projected continued slow growth in sales, without specifying a time sequence.

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