Will GM and Honda Agreement Strain Their Consumer PR?
“Buy American!” is a mantra that many U.S. consumers absolutely live by. This is especially true in the automotive marketplace.
While Honda and Toyota make two of the most popular sedan models in the U.S. market, outside of the midsize family sedan, there is a serious, dedicated cohort who has only and will only “Buy American.”
So, it will be interesting to see how this consumer group responds to a recent news release from General Motors and Honda because the U.S. and Japanese automakers are reportedly “teaming up” to work on projects together.
This program will begin with both companies “sharing” basic vehicle designs that will be sold under their personal brands. But it won’t end there. GM and Honda will also be collaborating in “areas of purchasing, research, development, and connected service,” according to a news release from Honda.
The new “shared” line of cars will include both gas and electric vehicles, and the cooperative plan is for both automakers to use “the same machinery and physical structures” for building these vehicles.
This kind of cooperative effort is not a novel idea in the marketplace. In fact, in recent years, Toyota and Subaru, as well as Ford and Volkswagen, entered into similar agreements to work toward designing and marketing self-driving and electric cars.
There are many direct and ancillary benefits for the automakers, but there are still some consumer PR factors that influence how and where this kind of cooperation is communicated to the general public.
For many consumers, if the cooperative effort results in a safer, better, less-expensive automobile, they’re happy with the news. But for consumers for whom purchasing decisions are connected to national identity, this kind of announcement could be greeted with much less enthusiasm.
Because this concept goes deeper than simply the “Buy American” slogan, this idea is a way of life and a perspective on the world, especially for GM buyers, many of whom have been dedicated GM customers for generations and would never consider buying a Honda, even if it could be proven that a specific model was objectively better in certain aspects.
To reach these customers, GM will need to shift their messaging to identify, and project messaging that will convince these buyers that they are an “American” company that still has plenty to offer “Buy American” consumers. This could include the American jobs that are created or enhanced because of this partnership, or the fact that the company still offers other vehicles that form the backbone and foundation of the economy in many American communities.
In this way, GM could connect with the reasons behind why people are committed to buying American-made vehicles and still move forward with a necessary project for the company to continue to compete in the global automotive marketplace.