General Motors recently made it official at the New York auto show: It is giving the all-new 2013 Chevy Malibu a makeover for 2014 -- at least two years ahead of schedule. Customers were so unhappy with the car when it was launched that GM tore up its plans for scheduled updates and rushed some engineering and design changes. In the process, it probably forfeited a good chunk of change that it will hope to make up in lower incentives going forward. GM North America President Mark Reuss told Automotive News that the focus of the refresh will be the exterior and cleaning up "the complexity of the interior." GM couldn't wait to make the changes later in the product cycle, he added: "We need it now."
GM (Fortune 500) thus became the latest manufacturer to acknowledge that the intensity of competition is leaving even smaller margins of error. "Given how well-informed consumers are these days, and how vocal social media is concerning cars on the road, having a substandard vehicle in the market is a very serious and expensive mistake," says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific, a West Coast design and marketing consultancy. "Once consumers learn of the weaknesses of a particular vehicle, they can turn against it." ,
The poster boy of do-overs is Honda, which enhanced the interior of the 2013 Civic after seeing how angrily customers and the media reacted to the bargain-basement original. Meanwhle, Fiat-Chrysler's Sergio Marchionne is proving to be the master of the makeover. "The changes to the Sebring making it into the 200 has been a spectacular success, says Peterson. "Similarly, upgrades to 300, Charger, and Challenger have been right on the mark without spending billions of dollars. Very intelligent moves on the part of Chrysler."
Marchionne's next challenge is the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee. For it and other makeovers -- some announced, others suggested -- keep reading.
A bad leader will inflict serious damage on any company. But for automakers, the results are often catastrophic.