- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2009

DETROIT | General Motors Co. has just outlined progress it has made toward achieving commitments in its business plan, including implementing a leaner structure, building stronger brands, and driving a company culture that puts the customer at the center of everything it does.

Since launching the new company July 10, GM has made demonstrable progress in positioning the company for success; putting in place a new global operating structure, a leaner and more streamlined executive leadership team, and a reconstituted board of directors. Emerging is a new GM with a cleaner balance sheet, fewer employees, an improved cost structure, a stronger dealer network, and streamlined global operations. Most important, the company has successfully launched new vehicles around the world that are performing well in their respective markets.

“Over the past 90 days since we created the new GM, we’ve already launched a number of new, fuel-efficient, highly successful cars and crossovers; introduced a new marketing campaign that highlights our best-in-class fuel economy, quality, warranty and safety performance; sworn in a new board of directors; and overhauled our management,” said GM President and CEO Frederick A. “Fritz” Henderson. “We are taking aggressive actions and moving quickly to transform our culture into one that is truly customer focused,” Mr. Henderson said.

New vehicle launches perform well

Consumer reaction to GM’s newest vehicles is positive. In the United States, newly launched vehicles, including the Chevrolet Equinox, Cadillac SRX, Buick LaCrosse, GMC Terrain and Chevrolet Camaro all exceeded sales expectations in September. Last month’s year-over-year sales of the new Chevrolet Equinox are up 94 percent, and the new Cadillac SRX sales are up 105 percent compared with August.

Additional marketplace recognition came from the recent naming of three GM brand cars (Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac CTS Sport Wagon and Chevrolet Camaro) and two GM brand trucks (Cadillac SRX and Chevrolet Equinox) to the short list of nominees in the North American Car/Truck of the Year competition. The winners in each category will be announced at the North American International Auto Show in January.

To help spur demand, in early September, GM launched a new advertising campaign titled “May the Best Car Win,” which reinforces the company’s confidence in design excellence and award-winning vehicle quality. Edmunds.com reports brand interest in GM vehicles is up about 11 percent (from 18.1 percent to 20 percent) since the campaign was launched.

In other world markets, the Daewoo Matiz Creative was launched in South Korea last month and has helped to double GM’s market share in the mini-segment in that country within the first three weeks of sale. Demonstrating the strength of GM’s new global small car, since its introduction to the Australia market in late June, the new Holden Cruze has become one of the country’s top 10 selling nameplates. The Chevrolet Agile is now launching in Brazil and Argentina, and initial receptivity by consumers and media is positive. In Europe, the new Opel Astra, introduced at the Frankfurt Motor Show, is ramping up production. The Astra is expected to perform well as a complement to the award-winning Insignia.

Chevrolet Volt remains on track

The Chevrolet Volt extended-range vehicle remains on track to begin production in late 2010. To date, more than 80 pre-production Volts have been built and are being road-tested. GM also recently announced a $43 million investment in Brownstown Township, Mich., to manufacture the required lithium-ion battery packs.

Improved sales performance

GM’s preliminary global market share in the third quarter was 11.9 percent, up 0.3 percentage point from 11.6 percent share in the first half of the year, compared with 12.4 percent in 2008. The company’s U.S. market share was 19.5 percent in the third quarter, consistent with the first half of the year. U.S. market share in 2008 was 22.1 percent. Most recently, GM’s September share was 20.6 percent, one of the highest months in 2009, showing that the company’s new products are capturing consumer interest. The four core brands accounted for more than 90 percent of GM’s September U.S. sales.

As of Sept. 30, dealer inventory was 424,000 units with 81 days supply, down from 582,000 and 99 days supply at the end of the second quarter. Going forward, production will continue to be aligned tightly with demand. GM is increasing fourth-quarter North America production to help rebuild the supply of vehicles in high customer demand.

Rationalizing manufacturing

GM has continued consolidating manufacturing operations while maintaining the flexibility to meet market demand. Third-quarter production was 533,000 vehicles, compared with a fourth-quarter production forecast of about 655,000, or a 23 percent increase.

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