Sluggish domestic sales, increased labor costs and a host of other woes have forced General Motors, the globe's largest auto manufacturer, to face the possibility of axing one of its old established US brands.

The company, which issued a shock profits warning earlier this month [WAMN: 18-Mar-05], has seen sales of its Pontiac and Buick marques fall in recent years. GM is now working to reverse the trend with a number of new models about to hit dealer showrooms.

But company vice-chairman Bob Lutz warns that if sales fail to live up to expectations, "then we would have to take a look at a phase-out. I hope we don't have to do that. What we've got to do is keep the brands we've got".

The company is to become more aggressive in its marketing. It plans to make customers aware of the unique qualities of GM vehicles and to address the hitherto weak differentiation between brands.

Says Gary Cowger, head of the firm's North America business: "We want to make sure that people are aware of the things that only GM can do."

To this end it has appointed Mark LaNeve to head the revamped marketing department. As the man responsible for the turnaround in Cadillac's fortunes, GM is hoping LaNeve's stardust will work on the rest of its stable.

Data sourced from USA Today Online; additional content by WARC staff