Automotive Intelligence - the web for automotive professionals and car enthusiasts
July 27, 2009
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The new General Motors launches with a clear and simple vision - to design, build and sell the best vehicles in the world.
Despite the recent downturn, GM has maintained its cadence of strong new products. In the U.S., for example, the Chevy Camaro has surged past its rivals to lead its segment, while the new Chevy Equinox, Cadillac SRX, and Buick LaCrosse are earning strong initial reviews. Later this year, the Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon and GMC Terrain debut, followed next year by the Chevy Volt, Chevy Cruze and Cadillac CTS Coupe.
This emphasis on great new products is also reflected in the Chevy Agile now launching in Latin America, in the Chevy Cruze and Buick Excelle in Asia Pacific, and in the new Opel Astra in Europe.
Just last month, GM announced its intention to build a new small car at a plant in Orion Township, Michigan, which will add to GM's growing portfolio of fuel-efficient cars and restore approximately 1,400 jobs.
GM also has moved aggressively to develop a full range of energy-saving technologies, including advanced internal combustion engines, biofuels, fuel cells, and hybrids. The company is also a leader in the development of extended-range electric vehicles, with its first model, the Chevy Volt, currently undergoing road testing and scheduled to launch in 2010. The new GM is also taking steps to make advanced battery development a core competency, and expects to make additional announcements on this matter late this summer.
Stronger brands and dealers
As part of its reinvention, the new GM has also focused its resources on four core brands and a stronger, more effective dealer network.
General Motors' core brands - Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC - will have a total of just 34 U.S. nameplates by 2010. This emphasis on fewer, better entries will enable the new GM to put more resources into each nameplate, resulting in better products and stronger marketing.
In May, the company accelerated its dealer consolidation efforts, with the goal of reducing the number of GM dealers in the U.S. from 6,000 this spring to approximately 3,600 by the end of next year. Even so, GM will still have the largest dealer network in the U.S. and GM dealers have committed to continue to improve the total customer experience for GM customers.
A pledge to regain trust and confidence
General Motors Company is primarily owned by the governments of the United States, Canada and Ontario, and by a trust fund providing medical benefits to UAW retirees. Specifically, common stock will be owned by:
U.S. Department of the Treasury: 60.8 percent UAW Retiree Medical Benefits Trust: 17.5 percent Canada and Ontario governments: 11.7 percent The old GM: 10 percent "We are very appreciative of the support provided by the stakeholders through the transformation process. Though General Motors Company will not initially be publicly traded, we will be transparent in our financial and other reporting to further strengthen trust and confidence," said Henderson. "We expect to take the company public again as soon as practical, starting next year, and to repay our government loans as soon as possible. We are required to pay off the loans by 2015, but our goal is to repay them much sooner."
Stronger balance sheet
General Motors Company launches with a strong balance sheet, a competitive cost structure, and a strong cash position, enabling it to compete more effectively with both its U.S. and foreign-based competitors here in the U.S., and to continue its strong presence in growing global markets.
The new company acquired old GM's strongest operations and will have a competitive operating cost structure, partly as a result of recent agreements with the United Auto Workers (UAW) and Canadian Auto Workers (CAW).
In the U.S., the new GM will be a far leaner company. By the end of 2010, the company will operate 34 assembly, powertrain, and stamping plants, down from 47 in 2008, and capacity utilization is expected to reach 100 percent during 2011. Overall U.S. employment will decline from about 91,000 at the end of 2008 to about 64,000 at the end of this year, creating a company sized to respond quickly to changes in the market, while still retaining the global scope necessary to develop world-class products and technologies.
The new GM will begin with a much stronger balance sheet, including U.S. debt of approximately $11 billion, which excludes preferred stock of $9 billion, and could change under fresh-start accounting. In total, obligations have been reduced by more than $40 billion, representing mostly unsecured debt and the VEBA trust fund that provides medical benefits to UAW retirees. The stronger balance sheet and lower break-even point will allow the new GM to reduce its risk, operate profitably at much lower volume levels, and reinvest in the business in the key areas of advanced technology and product development.
GM's subsidiaries outside the United States were acquired by the new company and are expected to continue to operate normally without any interruption.
A new way of doing business
With the launch of the new General Motors, company leaders will work to change the culture of the company, making the speed and decisiveness that GM demonstrated over the past several months the new way of doing business, and adding an intensified focus on the customer.
Edward E. Whitacre, Jr., who oversaw the creation of the new AT&T, will serve as chairman of a GM board with a number of new directors. Henderson will continue as president and chief executive officer, working closely with Whitacre. He also will take responsibility for GM's operations in North America, eliminating the GM North America president position.
To speed day-to-day decision-making, two senior leadership forums, the Automotive Strategy Board and Automotive Product Board, will be replaced by a single, smaller executive committee, which will meet more frequently and focus on business results, products, brands, and customers.
Bob Lutz has agreed to join the new GM as vice chairman responsible for all creative elements of products and customer relationships. Lutz and Tom Stephens, vice chairman, product development, will work together as a team, partnering with Ed Welburn, vice president of design, to guide all creative aspects of design. GM's brands, marketing, advertising, and communications will report to Lutz for consistent messaging and results. He will report to Henderson, and be part of the newly formed executive committee.
General Motors will also end its regional operating structure, moving decisions closer to the customer. This eliminates the regional president positions and the regional strategy boards. Nick Reilly will be named executive vice president of GM International Operations (GMIO) which will be based in Shanghai.
GM is also removing layers of management - reducing the number of U.S. executives by 35 percent and overall U.S. salaried employment by 20 percent by the end of this year - flattening the organization and speeding decision making.
Additional details of the new structure and leadership moves will be communicated later this month, said Henderson. "These and other actions will simplify our organizational structure and reduce the level of bureaucracy that, in the past, has prevented GM from moving faster."
More direct communications
Henderson also announced initiatives to open more direct communications between customers and GM employees at every level. "Beginning next week, we will launch a 'Tell Fritz' website where customers, or anyone else, can share ideas, concerns, and suggestions directly with senior management. I will personally review and respond to some of these communications every day."
Henderson and other General Motors leaders will go on the road regularly to meet with consumers and others with a stake in the new GM. "In August, we'll begin regular visits with customers, dealers, suppliers, employees and others - in the U.S. and abroad - who impact our relationships with customers. We'll be listening to their ideas, and acting on the ones that will improve our ability to serve our customers better. And of course, other executives and I will continue to reach out to customers through our ongoing web and Twitter chats.
(July 10, 09)