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There was a recent Forbes article indicating that GM is once again in trouble, , which is worth a look. One of the knocks against GM has always been that its vehicles are an incredible mixed bag, that there are some great cars, but to find them you have to sift through some real dogs.

On a recent vacation we were stuck at the O'Hare Hertz on a busy Saturday when they were running out of vehicles. We'd reserved a Premium/Luxury sedan, which were long since gone. We ended up with a Chevrolet Captiva crossover, which I'd never heard of. The reason I'd never heard of it it that it's not available for sale to the public, and is only available to fleet buyers.

I thought about doing a review, but why bother, since folks couldn't buy one even were they to wanted to? Suffice to say that it was just a ghastly vehicle. Googling it, it appears to be a classic GM parts bin amalgamation, taking the corpse of the unlamented Saturn Vue and fleshing it out with whatever parts happened to be available.

Making a substandard vehicle available only to car renters is the sort of move that keeps people from taking GM seriously. It did, after all, have the Chevrolet name attached to it. Rental cars are an opportunity for companies to showcase their brands, and this may be the only opportunity GM has to actually get me to drive one of their vehicles for some time.

The concept of "brand integrity" is that once a company puts its name on a product, it signifies a certain level of quality. One of my favorite companies, Apple, is known for its brand integrity, and prides itself that anything you buy with the Apple name on it will surpass one's expectations.

Similarly, I like to shop the discount malls for clothes. Some name manufacturers make cheaper versions of their labels for these malls, while some refuse to cheapen their brand. If you see a pair of Ferragamo shoes at a discount mall, no matter how far reduced in price they are, you still can be assured that you're getting a pair of quality shoes.

GM seems to be unable to keep itself from cheapening its brand for a short-term profit. I've had similar bottom of the rental car barrel Fords, and they've still been intrinsically good cars. One of the historic knocks on GM that the Forbes article refreshes is that it's been run by accountants, not engineers.

The global marketplace is continuing to become more competitive and GM continues to lose market share. Hyundai and VW, in particular, seem to be sweating the details, and trying to reach the goal that anything with their name on it will be of world-class quality. Honda has always had the reputation for building excellent cars at all price points, and while it's hit a little rough patch, I suspect it will return to its classic excellence.

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