General Motors' top marketing executive on Friday strongly defended two brands - Hummer and Saab - whose value has been questioned by new GM director Jerry York.
Mark LaNeve, speaking at the J.D. Power and Associates International Automotive Roundtable, said GM's eight-brand portfolio is a competitive advantage if managed properly.
LaNeve, GM's vice president for sales, service and marketing, said after his speech that he has not talked to York, but hopes to. York, an adviser to GM investor Kirk Kerkorian, last month questioned whether GM can afford to spend time on Hummer and Saab during its crisis.
But Hummer is "one of the strongest brands in the industry today and a very profitable one for us," LaNeve said. He added that the Hummer H3 provides nearly 70 percent conquest sales.
Saab appeals to educated young shoppers on the East Coast and West Coast, where GM sales are weak, LaNeve said.
GM can operate the Saab brand efficiently by combining back-end operations with Hummer and Cadillac stores under the same ownership, he said.
But LaNeve admitted that Saab suffers from a weak brand image, especially compared with archrival Volvo: "I fundamentally believe that the only difference between Volvo doing 120 (thousand sales) in the U.S. market and Saab doing 40 is that everyone knows that Volvo stands for safety and nobody was sure what Saab stood for."
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