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Alfred P. Sloan's 1921 repositioning strategy

Thomas L. Powers (Department of Marketing, Industrial Distribution, and Economics, School of Business, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA)
Jocelyn L. Steward (Department of Health Services Administration, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA)

Journal of Historical Research in Marketing

ISSN: 1755-750X

Article publication date: 26 October 2010




In 1921, Alfred P. Sloan developed an extensive repositioning strategy that was instrumental to General Motors' success over the decades that followed. This paper aims to provide a review of the development and evolution of this strategy and how the later deviation from this strategy was responsible for the company's marketplace decline and eventual bankruptcy.


The paper reviews the historical 1921 repositioning strategy developed by Sloan and the specific models and price levels that were a part of this strategy. These price levels are then examined over the following decades to determine when and how this strategy was modified over time.


The findings indicate that although Sloan developed a brilliant strategy at the time of its inception, General Motors has over time deviated from its own historic and successful repositioning strategy. It is demonstrated that the deviation from the 1921 strategy has contributed to the decline in General Motors' market share and their bankruptcy in 2009. In addition, the 1921 strategy is compared to those of successful 21st century competition.


The research provides the reader with a historical review and analysis of the Sloan strategy and provides evidence that a historically successful marketing strategy can be applicable in other time periods for the company that developed it and for other competitors that make use of a similar strategy.



Powers, T.L. and Steward, J.L. (2010), "Alfred P. Sloan's 1921 repositioning strategy", Journal of Historical Research in Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 4, pp. 426-442.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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