Just The Two Of Us?

There was a time when Al Ries and Jack Trout were my favourite marketers. They had a successful advertising practice on Madison Avenue, New York, and were consultants to some of America’s best known companies. They also had a delightful little book “The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing” (I wonder which of my friends did not return my copy?) in which they spoke about the law of duality. Their interpretation of the law of duality was that in the long run, every market becomes a two-horse race. And they gave several well-known examples, claiming that the law was universal.

When I read that almost 20 years ago I was sure this could never happen to the American auto industry. After all it had dwindled from hundreds in the early 20th Century to just The Big Three: General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. That was it. End of story. Or was it?

Well, we all know that German giant Diamler-Benz bought Chrysler for $36B. in 1998 only to dump it a few years later. Failed acquisition. But today Fiat of Italy, who already owns 60% of Chrysler, announced that it will purchase the reaming 40% shares for a total purchase price of $3.7B.

So on January 20 when the deal is finalised America will still have fourteen car companies assembling automobiles in America. But only two will be American. The General and Ford.

Time was when it was a truism that what’s good for GM is good for America. Maybe we are back to those days. And now with just two, Ries and Trout may have been right after all.

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