Wednesday Companions

Not only have my wonderful wife and I cut the TV cord, we have also broken loose from what has been the dominant company in home security. You know, the company with three letters.

We were going to use the company known for its video doorbell, but they screwed the pooch. We had one of their doorbells in (on?) our mid-Atlantic home and we liked it.

We called them to get delivery of a full home security system. I guess because we had just moved, our credit card wouldn’t work for payment. The company rep said she would call us in two days and sent an email “verifying” that she would call. When she didn’t call on the day promised, I sent an email to them on the following day. In the two weeks since I sent the email we still have not heard anything from them. Of course, now it’s moot as I will explain.

Not wanting to wait, we bought a system from Simplisafe. We installed part of the system yesterday, but when we ran into trouble with the glassbreak sensor, we called the company. A rep named Tim could not have been nicer or more helpful. Our system, complete with door/window sensors, motion sensors, cameras, etc. is up and running.

Tim is an example of how customer service should work, but most of the time it does not work that way. Oh, we’re only paying about 40% as much for monitoring compared to what we were paying the three-letter company. Oh yeah, I had to talk the three-letter company down from what they wanted to charge us.


This post from Mac’s Motor City Garage is about the companion makes created by General Motors in the 1920s, specifically the Viking, which was Oldsmobile’s “companion.”

How many of you are aware of these brands? Today it seems odd that, a decade after General Motors stopped producing Pontiac after its bankruptcy and 15+ years after Oldsmobile was folded, General Motors once thought it did not have enough brands. Of course, it was really GM “czar” Alfred Sloan who thought that. His motto was, “A car for very purse and purpose.”

From the Mac’s article:


“In the 1920s, as General Motors president Alfred P. Sloan and his executive committee crafted the first real divisional product strategy for the automaker, with Cadillac at the top of the pricing ladder and Chevrolet at the bottom, they discovered an apparent shortcoming in their plan. And a potential opportunity: There were significant or at least perceptible price gaps between each GM car make and the next. To fill these gaps—and, it was hoped, sell more cars—the company created what it called “companion makes.” Note Sloan’s characteristic caution: Instead of launching four all-new makes, a risky move indeed, the new brands were partnered with existing divisions.

To fill the market opening between Cadillac and Buick, Sloan and crew introduced a junior Cadillac brand called LaSalle. The price gap between Chevrolet and Oakland was bridged with a new Oakland sub-brand, Pontiac. And between Buick and Oldsmobile, where they discerned the widest price gap, they created two new companion makes, with Buick’s Marquette priced just below Buick, and Viking, priced above its Oldsmobile parent brand. That made Viking unique in at least one regard: While the rest of the companion brands were price-ranked below their parent marques, the Viking was actually more expensive than Oldsmobile. At $1595, the Viking was priced more in Buick territory than in the existing $1000-1200 Oldsmobile range.”


Of course, the companion make program was more miss than hit. Marquette and Viking did not survive the early years of the Great Depression and LaSalle only made it to 1940. Pontiac, though, was so successful that GM eliminated its “parent” make, Oakland, after the 1931 model year and a 25-year run. Oakland began as an independent automaker in 1907, but was purchased by William Durant and his new General Motors company in 1909. (Of course, after writing the word “LaSalle” my OCD/ADD brain is playing the opening song from All In The Family in my head. 🎶 “Gee our old LaSalle ran great, those were the days.” 🎶) From Mecum, a picture of a 1931 Oakland Model 301 sedan:


See the source image


To be honest, almost all cars of this vintage look the same to me. I guess I don’t really notice things like grills, hood ornaments (Ernamerntz!), trim placement, etc. I suppose many people would say most contemporary cars bear a strong resemblance to each other.

Today, some car manufacturers have a companion make in an effort to have an upmarket brand. Toyota created Lexus in 1989, Nissan created Infiniti the same year and Honda created Acura in 1986. Even Hyundai/Kia now has a “separate” luxury brand, Genesis, which grew out of a model introduced in 2008. I guess one could say that even Mercedes-Benz has an upmarket brand in the Maybach although the latter was once an independent company and, in all honesty, is not all that differentiated from MB.

Everything old is new again?








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9 thoughts on “Wednesday Companions

  1. I’ve become more familiar with LaSalle and Pontiac-Oakland through books I’ve reviewed. I’ve read a Buick history and as I recall, Marquette (and Viking for that matter) barely survived but a few years.
    On the one hand, I get the idea of why these were created. That marketer mentality of not wanting to sully the name of a brand by moving into a new market.
    On the other hand, I think this is a good example that ties to yesterday’s post about too much choice. I imagine many folks left the local dealer confused as to what exactly was the difference between the highest priced Chev offering, the mid priced Pontiac and the lowest priced Oakland.


  2. I suspect that the “sameness” is a fear of losing market share. For reference, look at the Chrysler/Desoto Airflow cars. Radically different from anything else offered, at least 6-8 years ahead of everyone else, and a complete sales failure. Another would be the “upside down bathtub” from the early 50’s that never really caught on. Most folks are more comfortable with what they know, and see all the time and therefore sales suffer. Even the early Corvettes didn’t really sell well for the first few years.


    1. Yes, timidity is an enemy of innovation. Fuel and safety regulations also “force” car companies into a numbing sameness. Still, the Corvette was eventually a success. One problem is the lack of ability and/or willingness to look at the long run.

      One of the big “structural” drags on the economy and GDP growth, even before the damn virus, is a lack of investment in long-term capital stock. Why the focus between long-run and short-run has shifted so much is above my pay grade.


  3. “Why the focus between long-run and short-run has shifted so much is above my pay grade.”

    My opinion is that everyone has a “I want it NOW” mentality these days. No one wants to start small and work towards a goal it seems. I see that to an extent with hiring younger folks in our business. They don’t see why they aren’t immediately given a supervision position, even though they have next to no experience. In talking to some folks who play in the stock market, they are looking for a “big score” with every trade, with no eye to the long run. I guess the same is true for many CEO’s of large corporations. Gotta keep the profits rolling in NOW to satisfy the stockholders.

    But I’m just an old country boy, what do I know. (eyes rolling emoji here)


    1. Thanks, DDM. I agree that selfishness and an over-inflated sense of self-entitlement make people more focused on the short run. The question is why so many more people are so self-absorbed and self-entitled.


  4. We didn’t have a security system in Arizona until we had a break-in. I guess the signs that said we had a security system weren’t believable enough. >grin< Lost only a TV and DVD player, rest of the house undamaged and untouched. They took what was easy to carry and sell. We did put in a higher security sliding patio door, the method by which they gained access.

    Since then, we put in a Cox system. It's more expensive than what is available now, but it would cost a fair amount to change out everything, and the Cox system is quite reliable. In our "summer house", we went with a Ring system. It's a lot cheaper, but I don't like the large door and window sensors they have.

    After a fire destroyed our condo in February 2014, we've been focused on having a system that notifies us remotely if there is a fire. Both systems have solutions that address the potential. We sleep better at night knowing that we will be notified quickly of a fire.


    1. Wow, cannot imagine what it would be like to lose our dwelling to a fire. Our house has a built-in sprinkler system with sprinkler heads in virtually every room. Of course, I have no idea if the system is functional and I don’t really want to find out.

      Liked by 1 person

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