The other night I met up with a colleague who is kicking butt and taking names at Leo Burnett in Dubai. While she didn’t divulge any of her clients – like any sensible advertising professional – I did take the opportunity to fill her ear with what I thought was inherently wrong with GM. Or atleast what I perceived to be the problem.

When I think about General Motors and their brand offering, I’m reminded of Old America – enormous beasts who could care less about the fuel-efficient scenarios of our times today. Even with the advent of Hybrid badges on most of their current SUV lineup, you never really expect them to go the distance. They will get you out of the ditch and they will bear bullets from a drive-by shooting but they won’t be convenient and easy to use. I’ve personally driven the Cruze and the Tahoe and even sat in the new Traverse. They are nice cars but there has always been something missing. I would never want to own them.

When I see a GM SUV (and I mean the Chevrolet sub-brand here), I imagine them either escorting the President down the Capitol or a season re-run of some police/spy TV drama – NCIS, CSI, Castle etc. Its always the same brand positioning for their vehicles. While Ford has been able to re-invent itself as a fun, fresh and edgy brand with excellent offerings such as the Civic-killer Fusion or the trendy Fiesta and even the Edge here has been hugely successful. The less I say about the new Explorer would be wise. But then everybody is allowed one mistake. My biggest concern with Chevrolet has been there almost one-ness across their upper SUVs. The Yukon, Denali, Tahoe and the Suburban all look almost identical. Huge bodies with massive frames, massive windows – usually tinted – to make them all just blend in. They never make a statement of design. And people like change.

The other problem with GM vehicles in the region has been the buyer perception. For years, the only GMCs I saw either came in from KSA or Qatar. As an expatriate, my South East Asian parents too turned to what we saw were more accessible vehicles – Landcruisers, Prados, Patrols, Pathfinders and the Range Rovers for the dose of luxury. Buying American was almost too risky. But that perception has been altered by Ford. GM, not so much. And I bought into that too. After watching TV, even I wished to be the Hip-Hop artist rolling around in an Escalade than the trailing Yukon or Denali security detail. You see the problem of perception. Inherently, I should feel much better about the Yukon or the Denali as it is trusted to being more secure and responsive but the effect just isn’t. It could just be me. So the GMCs were neither trendy nor economical.

The high selling effect of GMC in KSA is easily explained. Having seen a much higher American influence through the exploration of Oil and the Gulf War, the country has seen numerous GMCs rolling through their streets. They’ve seen the safety that the car provides and the space that goes with it. Here in Dubai, the early British influence saw an added impetus to buy Jaguars and Range Rovers. But Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi all found their niches helping cover the spectrum. I won’t talk about the German pseudo-SUVs. Yes, they’re called Crossovers but who really cares. We can talk about Jeep – both the Wrangler and Grand Cherokee – who’ve ensured that they’re market has always been carved out as durable but excellent outdoorsy fun ‘jeeps’. You may certainly feel that I’m all over the place on this one but let’s break it down by function.

1. Toyota, Nissan and Mitsubishi – economical, good spectrum of options and ultimately very reliable

2. Jeep Wrangler and Grand Cherokee – fun and the true outdoor enthusiast

3. BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Porsche and Mercedes – Save the G series from Mercedes, no SUV from any of these manufacturers should call itself that. They are luxurious sedans raised off the ground. Might I add that most of them have terrible air conditioning making them rubbish for this climate.

4. Honda – they’ve tried their hand at making SUVs but the Pilot doesn’t make any dent. Does anybody remember the HRV?

5. Range Rover and Land Rover – The styling of the new Range Rover has brought them back into the game but its old-school British charm still rubs off today. For the serious outdoor enthusiast, there should be none other than the Defender.

6. Ford – The Explorer has been very popular and with good reason. However we must wait and watch how the crappy new chassis, axle design and overall styling will find it here.

and finally…

7. GMC – Beastly vehicles driven with an intent to either kill or maim. Most times you’ll only see one with a KSA or Abu Dhabi plate in and around Dubai.

And so here it is. A fantastic opportunity for GMC to sell their cars, not as doses of luxury but the following checklist:
1. Safe Havens – Soccer Moms and families will find comfort in the fact that no other car – perhaps the now defunct, Hummer – can keep them safe

2. People Carriers – I know its a strange term to call them this but you have to bank on something

3. House Moving – No other SUV is rugged enough to handle this job as well as the GMC. No matter if you’re moving to the edge of the Desert in Mirdif, this beast will get you and your house there… in three trips or less.

4. Support the US of A – Buy American and strengthen the Dollar. As the Dirham is pegged to it, it only serves the greater good.

5. The Agent effect – You may not look like James Bond stepping out of one but you won’t look like a Chauffeur either. A black suit dude stepping out of a GMC is cool.

If you believe that I’m completely off my rocker, please go ahead and leave me a comment below. Don’t indulge in road rage.