My buddy Dr Evil (the Mad Mechanic) and I are unabashed car dudes. Combine that with the fact that we're rather opinionated and mildly intelligent, and it should be no surprise that we have kicked around for quite a while a number of ideas to save the Big 3 American automakers.
That said, we think we have a plan that works. We used GM for our example, because while we both come from full-on Ford families (my VW is the only non-Ford that either of us or our immediate families own anymore) we're both Chevy kids at heart. Without further ado, here we go.
1. Kiss GMC goodbye. There is zero need for GM to have two truck manufacturers, and Chevrolet has more to offer than keeping GMC.
2. Do the same to Hummer. If you feel the need to keep any of their models, put a bowtie on the grille and call them a Chevy.
3. Bring back Pontiac. Run it as the "Excitement Division" as it properly should be. Automatic transmissions are available, but only as a factory special order. These are cars for drivers, not for people who drive.
4. On that note, bring back special orders, for a la carte pricing. We'll make you anything, but it'll cost you.
5. Cut back both the number of models in each brand.
6. And the trim levels for each model. If you haven't noticed by now, our whole plan hinges on simplifying and streamlining operations. Keep each model to roughly 3 trim levels: Base, either a Deluxe or Sport level (depending on model), and a Luxury level.
That basically leaves you with Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, and Cadillac.
You treat Chevy as your entry-level line. It's your workingman's car. They also handle all truck manufacturing. Sorry, rappers, but your Escalade has to go. Make an econobox, a midsize, and a fullsize car. Have a crossover and a midsize and fullsize SUV, and a small and fullsize pickup, and you're set. The one exception is the Corvette. As the Chevrolet flagship, we can let it stay put, just for nostalgia's sake. (Never let it be said that we're unreasonable or forget the past.)
Buick becomes your slightly more white-collar car. It's what your middle-management types would be driving. Midsize and fullsize sedans, mostly. Maybe an AWD midsize SUV.
Cadillac once again becomes the cream of the crop. Cadillac isn't an adjective for nothing. The bank president should want to drive a Caddy. CEOs of major corporations should consider Cadillac the ideal. Yes, that means that Cadillacs will be far more expensive than they are now. So be it, our target demographic can afford it, we just need to be building sedans that are taking market share from BMW and Mercedes. Build a quality luxury car, and American businessmen will buy them.
Pontiac operates slightly outside of this continuum. The "excitement division" would span all comers, because people who love performance cars come from all backgrounds. Build something like a Fiero (but build it right, instead of the ball of fail that the Fiero was) as your entry-level car, a roadster akin to the Saturn Sky, move your Camaro to Pontiac as the return of the Firebird, and pull the Cadillac XLR over as your top of the line sports/muscle car. All with manual transmissions as standard equipment, and as little traction and stability control as we can get away with. Pontiacs are designed and built for drivers, people who want the car to push back, and tell them how it feels.
We have something for everybody, without excessive duplication. Our plan doesn't address the UAW issue (face it, UAW costs are strangling domestic automakers) or .gov regulations that kill super-efficient small diesels (50+ mpg on a super-clean burning diesel? With actual performance? Beats a Prius in every way but the smug factor.) but it's a far sight better than how things are right now.
Of course, I'm always open to suggestions/additions/modifications.