GM CEO Mary Barra Gives an Update on Annus Horribilis 2020
In a fireside conversation with the Automotive Press Association, General Motors President and CEO Mary Barra said 2020 will be remembered as a tragic year. “We are at a critical point.” GM, like most companies, is struggling to cope with a global economic pandemic and now a nation is struggling to make meaningful and permanent changes to race relations.
Barra is no stranger to the crisis. She started her historic run as the first woman to lead GM in 2014 when the automaker ignited the ignition switch and started 2020 while recovering from a work strike. She spoke to the media one day who should have seen thousands of potential buyers on the GM stand at the North American International Auto Show due to open to the public in Motor City this weekend but has been canceled due to COVID-19. Even so, the GM chief has remained unruffled throughout. Here are some of the challenges GM faced in a large question and answer session:
The impact of COVID on GM? What impact?
The virus has affected all sectors of the business while bringing out the best in people. GM has strengthened its balance sheet, cut cash consumption, no longer needs job cuts, and has sent 50,000 workers to factories in North America while speeding up production in other parts of the world. Barra has visited eight factories herself and plans to visit more. There have been no cases where the virus has spread through work, she said. The workers told him that they felt safer coming to work than shopping.
Low inventory, especially trucks
GM will run its factories, with a few exceptions, at full pre-COVID production rates by the end of the month, said Barra. GM entered the COVID period with little inventory. The large truck factories now operate in three shifts and work with the supply base to ensure that they can continue at this rate and put the trucks in the hands of dealers soon. “We will run out of these facilities for a while longer,” she says, and take this opportunity to build an inventory and launch our new SUVs. The highly profitable family of full-size SUVs (2021 Cadillac Escalade, 2021 Chevrolet Tahoe, 2021 GMC Yukon) will soon be launched. This is not a GM problem. Toyota, too, is facing an inventory leak due to tight supply chains and high demand for its trucks.
EV Product Push
Chevrolet has the updated Bolt and the largest variant of Bolt crossover SUV (presented above) as well as the full-size GMC Hummer EV 2022 pickup (expected next year) and the Cadillac Lyriq 2023 mid-size SUV ( waited later). The two debuts have been delayed, but Barra promises that we will see them soon.
These electric vehicles will be followed by a Hummer SUV, electric vans and more SUVs for Chevy, a flagship Cadillac sedan, and more. There is a regular drumming of vehicles across the coming segments. A full portfolio of electric vehicles should help GM increase sales on the coast. All are “on the right track.” I always push them to go faster. “
Oh, and GM’s autonomous vehicle plans are underway. The Cruise Origin standalone taxi-taxi will arrive next year, as will a version of the Origin for package delivery. GM is also working on an electric commercial van. GM’s Ultium battery platform enables a wide range of vehicles in all segments and sizes as well as commercial vehicles, all taking advantage of cell efficiency and the cost position of the system.
Calming fears about autonomous carpooling, Barra said that the Origin had plenty of room, would not have a driver to worry about contact with passengers and would be properly disinfected. “And I hope that soon we will have a vaccine,” she adds, referring to a more sustainable medical response to the coronavirus. Autonomous vehicle testing continues in Arizona and driverless vehicles deliver food and meals to San Francisco. The fleet was to be deployed last year but was postponed without a new target date. Barra said progress is continuing and the vehicles will be ready for deployment “faster than most people think.”
GM continues to deploy Super Cruise, its hands-free highway driving system, on the Cadillac range and other vehicles, starting with the Chevy Bolt. The switch to Ultra Cruise, which extends technology to city driving, further improves safety. “I am excited about our technology roadmap now,” said Barra.
What about old-fashioned vehicles and purchases?
There are also regular vehicles, with the new sedans Cadillac CT4 2020 and Cadillac CT5 2020, the coupe and convertible Chevrolet Corvette with central engine 2021. And there is more to come, promises Barra.
Customers have embraced buying cars online, and Barra expects people to want to do more online shopping in the future, even when things get back to normal. But there will always be those who want to kick the tires. In the future, customers will have the opportunity to do as much, or little, online as they wish.
Black Lives Matter
Barra is proud of GM’s diversity efforts over the decades, but does not hesitate to say that is not enough. She will soon appoint members of a new inclusion advisory committee, communicate internally with employees and will continue to do so, and GM has donated $ 10 million to the NAACP. Barra will also use GM’s reach through dealers and suppliers to work to promote diversity and inclusion as the company describes the efforts it will undertake and how they will be measured so as not to simply greet the idea of fighting against systemic racism.
GM CEO Mary Barra takes stock of Annus Horribilis 2020 first appeared on MotorTrend.