45-GM Goes for Help with its Used Cars

Recently General Motors decided to provide a bumper-to-bumper full warranty for one year or 12,000 miles on its used vehicles going back to the 2003 model year. The warranty applies to GM Certified Vehicles. You might ask yourself, why would GM bother to add a warranty to cars that they have already sold? The answer is that the company wants to improve the residual values that the market puts on its used cars, and for very good reason.

The original purchaser of a car rarely holds it to the end of its life. Rather, the majority seem to sell their cars, or trade them, after about five years. The residual value of the car after five years is the value that the original owner uses to reduce the purchase price of his or her next new car. Here is where GM, and Ford and Chrysler for that matter, has a severe problem.

The residual values for foreign auto marques, especially Toyota and Honda, are far higher as a percentage of the original purchase price than are the domestic makes’ residual values. These differences in residual values are an undeniable criticism of the GM products. Any purchaser of a new car who does his homework will factor this higher residual value into his evaluation of the “cost of ownership.” The foreign makes’ higher residual values are equivalent to a deferred discount on the next car he purchases.

Here’s how this works. Assume that both GM and Toyota are selling today an automobile with a $30,000 price tag. Further assume that after five years the Toyota is worth 50% of its original purchase price while the GM make is worth 35%. These are reasonable estimates for the current market. At the end of five years the Toyota automobile is worth $15,000, while the General Motors automobile is worth $10,500. The difference gives the owner of the Toyota automobile $4,500 more to purchase his next car than the General Motors purchaser has. Over the course of five years, the Toyota owner spends $4,500 in total, or $900 per year, less to drive his car. That’s a savings of 6 cents per mile on a car driven 15,000 miles per year.

General Motors is hoping that its warranty on its used cars will increase their residual values by enough to offset the advantages that the foreign makes have. GM is creating a Reliability innovation that puts the company’s promise in writing that the used car will operate for 12,000 miles or one year with no problems. (See the Perspective, “Reliability: The Hard Road to Sustainable Advantage” in StrategyStreet.com.) Will that be enough to offset the significant differences in residual values at the end of five years? Probably not, but it is a start in the right direction.

Posted 9/2/08


Because so many customers lease automobiles in 2022, Toyota’s residual value advantage shows up early in the customer relationship. Toyota continues to lead the US market in residual value of its automobiles. A recent study found that 5-year-old Toyota brand automobiles had a residual value of 64.7% of their original cost. Toyota enjoyed a 2.6% residual value advantage over Chevrolet and a 4% advantage over Ford. It’s advantage over Chrysler was 10.7%. This residual value advantage enhances the reputation of Toyota and also reduces the lifetime cost of ownership for the customer. This advantage is reflected early in the cost of leasing a Toyota brand automobile compared to those of its competitors.

GM sought to reduce the resources its customers used on its products. Here is a brief description of these kinds of innovations.

The company may add value by Reducing the Resources the customer uses with the product. These resources include money, time and energy. The Company may reduce the money resources the customer uses with the product by reducing the costs that the customer incurs with the product and all its attendant components and activities. The Company reduces the time the customer must spend with the product through innovations that reduce the customer’s learning and activity steps. The Company may also add value by reducing the energy the customer must use with the product. These energy reductions include overcoming the physical constraints the product sets on the customer and reducing any toll the product takes on the customer’s health.  Learn more HERE.

Posted 3/30/22



If you face a competitive marketplace, read these blogs. We wrote them to help you make better decisions on segments, products, prices and costs based on the experience of companies in over 85 competitive industries. Much of the world suffered a severe recession from 2008 to 2011. During that time, we wrote more than 270 blogs using publicly available information and our Strategystreet system to project what would happen in various companies and industries who were living in those hostile environments. In 2022, we updated each of these blogs to describe what later took place. You can use these updated blogs to see how the Strategystreet system works and how it can lead you to better decisions.