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Alfred Pritchard Sloan Jr. was an American business executive and philanthropist, known primarily for his time as the president and CEO of General Motors (GM).
Born in 1875, Sloan led GM from 1923 until 1956, a period during which the company grew to become a dominant force in the global automotive industry.
Sloan is often credited with establishing the modern corporation, but perhaps his most significant contribution was his innovative approach to customer segmentation.

The Innovator of Customer Segmentation Aligned to Car Brands

Sloan’s strategy was based on a simple yet revolutionary idea: not all customers are the same. He recognized that different customers have different needs and preferences, and he believed that GM could achieve greater success by tailoring its products to meet these diverse needs. This led to the development of a range of different car models, each designed to appeal to a specific segment of the market.


Sloan’s strategy was encapsulated in his famous phrase “a car for every purse and purpose.”
He divided the market into distinct segments based on factors such as income level, lifestyle, and personal preferences.
Each GM brand was designed to appeal to a specific segment. For example, Chevrolet was positioned as an affordable brand for the mass market, while Cadillac was aimed at the luxury segment.


To implement this strategy, Sloan restructured GM into semi-autonomous divisions, each responsible for a specific brand. This allowed each division to focus on understanding and meeting the needs of its target market segment. Sloan also introduced annual model changes (known as “planned obsolescence”) to encourage customers to upgrade their cars regularly.

Success Factors

Several factors contributed to the success of Sloan’s strategy.
First, it allowed GM to offer a wider range of products than its competitors, appealing to a broader customer base.
Second, it enabled GM to differentiate itself in a crowded market by tailoring its products to specific customer needs.
Finally, it created a sense of aspiration among customers, with the different GM brands representing different levels of status and success.


Alfred Sloan’s strategy of customer segmentation transformed General Motors into one of the world’s leading car manufacturers. It was a groundbreaking approach that has since been adopted by businesses across a wide range of industries. Sloan’s legacy is a testament to the power of understanding customer needs and preferences, and his innovative strategy continues to influence business practices today. His vision and leadership not only shaped GM but also left an indelible mark on the global automotive industry.