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Innovation Blog

Is General Motors Waking Up? Build-It-Yourself As an Innovation Experience

By Shlomo Maital


After 80 years, and near-bankruptcy, is General Motors finally waking up and smelling the coffee?   Is GM realizing that many of those who buy expensive cars actually LOVE cars and deserve, for their money, a first-rate car experience?

The New York Times reports that those who buy a new Corvette will have the option, for two models, to build their own engine — a 7 liter massive piece of engineering.  The cost of the build-it-yourself option is substantial:  $5,800, according an automotive PR magazine:

Have you always wanted to assemble a car engine? If so you may want to consider buying a Corvette Z06 or ZR1, this is because there is a new build-your-own engine option available.  This option will set you back $5,800 extra, don’t worry if you are worried that you will end up with an engine that does not run, as a General Motors technician will supervise you throughout the build.  It is no secret that Corvette owners are usually very passionate, therefore General Motors may have found a niche in the market, which will make enthusiasts even more involved in their motoring.   If you choose the build-your-own option for the Corvette Z06 you will be putting together a massive 7-liter engine, whereas the ZR1’s engine is a supercharged 6.2 liter engine. If you choose this option you will have to travel to the Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan….

This could be an innovation trend. Can you find ways to create buyer buy-in, to leverage clients’  passion for your product, by giving them some role in actually making part of the product?   Note how IKEA has leveraged this — it both saves costs when buyers do the assembly, and for some (not all!) provides an empowering experience.    (Apparently, many women do the actual assembly of IKEA furniture — and do it well!).   For years, pathbreaking innovators have had lead users (a la MIT’s Fred von Hippel) help with designing the product. Why not let them join the assembly line too?   And, for GM, why not let the passionate Corvette buyers actually manage  and run the whole Corvette division? They could do no worse than current management — and probably a whole lot better.

I think it is an error to charge buyers $5,800 for this build-it-yourself option, even if it does cost GM money to assign a supervising engineer.  Come on, GM.   Give a little ‘margin’ for those truly passionate about their Corvettes.   And for once, before you appoint senior managers, could we have a polygraph for each?   Only one question:  Do you honestly and truly LOVE cars and are passionate about building and driving them?  Only a straight ‘yes’ gets you a job.  How many of GM’s current executives would pass the test?!

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Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
July 2010
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