General Motors turned 100 today and the company’s management tried eagerly to convey the message of change and optimism. The once largest car maker in the world, incorporated by Billy Durant in 1908, is in a deep crisis. GM created a giant $38.7 billion loss in 2007. GM’s sales numbers in the U.S. have nosedived, primarily due to the sharp increase in gasoline prices and the higher awareness for fuel economy of car buyers as well as the economic slowdown. The product line-up, famous for gas-guzzlers like Hummers or GMC trucks, is simply not anymore meeting demand. Competitors, especially Japanese automakers, pushed forward with more efficient models and popular hybrids. Though Toyota’s hybrid car sales are small in comparison with the large pick-up trucks Toyota sells in the United States, the company managed to establish a green image. Intelligent advertising and the hybrid hype worked out for Toyota….
Despite all the odds, GM appeared to be determined to maintain its position as a major car producer and to regain its former competitiveness.
Rick Wagoner left no doubt that GM is absolutely focused on its future now. Looking forward! That’s the slogan of the day. In his speech, Wagoner mentioned highlights of General Motor’s past 100 years. “…amazing heritage…” / “….tremendous heritage…” are all word’s Mr. Wagoner used when referring to GM’s time as the leading car manufacturer in the world. Confidently, he spoke about GM continuing this legacy into its second century – he was also talking of a “bright future”. Dramatic changes are going on right now, all over the world. Wagoner assured that GM “kept up with that change”, with which I only agree up to a point. In recent years, General Motors failed to adapt its product line-up, failed to meet demand, failed to remain profitable. As it was the case with Chrysler and Ford, the management was ignorant and made self-centered decisions… The market changed, and they denied it. Now, however, it seems as if the leading figures of GM have become aware of what’s going on and what needs to be done:
“We’re committed to leading our industry on the most important issue we face over the next generation: The development of alternative fuel propulsion.”
Rick Wagoner pushes forward the “reinvention of the automobile”, shifting from mechanically driven vehicles to electrically driven ones.
The symbol of GM’s new direction is the outstanding Chevrolet Volt, an electric car with range-extender. (Read more about the Chevy Volt in Electric vehicles are competitive with gasoline-diven vehicles The electric car revolution is about to happen ) It’s expected that the production version is unveiled today during the GM Next live broadcast. All the excitement about the Chevy Volt is justified, if the shift to electric cars fails, the company is not likely be there anymore in 100 years…
Jack Smith, the retired CEO of General Motors, refers to GM’s future as “an exciting time”… He’s absolutely right!