Mark LaNeve points to an interesting metric to show that General Motors isn't faring as badly as some people think: market share points per brand.
LaNeve, GM's vice president of North American vehicle sales, mentioned the measurement in passing at a media briefing last week during which he and marketing/ad chief Brent Dewar explained GM's new brand focus to reporters.
You don't hear that comparison used much, but it sounds impressive, especially since LaNeve says it shows that GM is still in the ballpark with the competition.
OK. So let's do the math.
For the first four months of this year, the three Toyota Motor Sales brands averaged 4.4 points of market share.
Then came American Honda's two brands, with 4.1 points each.
Next was Nissan with an average of 3.3 points for its two brands, which put it neck-and-neck with GM, whose eight brands averaged 3.2 points.
DaimlerChrysler's five brands averaged 3.0 points and Ford Motor Co.'s seven brands averaged 2.7 points.
How significant is this metric?
You can break it neatly into tiers: Toyota and Honda have better than four points for each brand; Nissan, GM and DaimlerChrysler have three points or better; Ford, less than three points.
Nothing startling there.
But if you exclude non-North American brands to measure the performance and market strength of the traditional North American factories, the numbers change.
GM's six core brands - Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Cadillac, Saturn and GMC - average 4.2 points.
The Chrysler group's three brands - Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep - average a strong 4.7 points of share. If you throw in Mercedes but not Maybach, the average is about 3.8.
Meanwhile, Ford's three North American brands - Ford, Lincoln and Mercury - have a whopping average of 6.0 points of share.
What does this all slicing and dicing tell us?
If you're trying to refocus your brands, the statistical wizardry makes it easy to see which ones are below average and need help, as if it weren't already obvious.
But here's the dose of reality: No matter how you cut it, in the aggregate GM still had 25.6 of the U.S. light-vehicle market.
Not all brands are created equal. So by definition, some must be below average. In GM's case, Pontiac, Buick and Saturn are below average. They need help.
GM says help is on the way. But don't expect dramatic changes in the statistics anytime soon.
Incremental sales from underperforming brands still help keep the factories humming.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at