One ray of sunshine for General Motors this year has been the warm attention that is greeting P.U.M.A., its enclosed two-wheel, two-person version of the Segway, in partnership with that company.
Myself, I'm intrigued at the thought of climbing into a P.U.M.A. for the three-mile commute between my home near Wrigley Field and my classrooms downtown or in nearby Evanston. But others might be worried that a city bus or SUV could squash them without even feeling the bump. They might ask, What are the odds you’d make it to class?
Thankfully, Chicago and New York aren’t GM’s target markets. It’s imagining places like Singapore where vehicles are smaller and congestion is ten times thicker. P.U.M.A.s could be as practical there as rickshaws, bicycles, or skateboards.
Assuming the P.U.M.A. ever gets beyond prototype to commercial product, how would it be sold? Where would it be sold? It’s hard to think of a scenario where a typical U.S. car dealer, say in New Jersey, would want to expend much creative, new generation-style retailing energy on customers looking at a P.U.M.A.
Maybe GM's targeted dealers in Hong Kong or Cairo would have retailing models with customer experiences, inventories and profit models that are different enough from the standard American ones to make this work.
My question is really: How is GM thinking about the P.U.M.A. at the point of sale? In a long-ended previous era, strong, consumer-focused Dealerships made GM what it is as much as any best-selling Olds or Corvette. But they kept that model in a bizarre frozen state of suspended animation,. It's as if they believed that car buyers in 2009 are essentially the same as car buyers in 1950. While that's a clear sign of management senility for traditional auto products, it's sheer lunacy for new-age products aimed at new generations of buyers.
What should emerging-product and -market dealership look like? How can G.M. use P.U.M.A. to make that dealership more viable? Without more attention to the marketing channels question, new product idea after new product ideas will continue to languish and wither on the vine.
Remember my colleague Phil Kottler's Marketing 101: the FOUR P's....