General Motors Corp. can regain some of its slipping market share through increasing use of conquest tools and a slight slowdown in the industry sales pace, company officials say.

GM's share finished 1998 at 29.4%, down from 31.3% in 1997.

Chief Financial Officer J. Michael Losh predicts GM will reverse an eight-year market share decline in 1999. “What I think you should look for from us, as we go through 1999, each quarter we ought to be better than the same quarter the year before. This is the year where we should be improving share because we've got strong products and we're going to have availability,” he says.

Forecasts for a slight sales downturn actually may help GM.

“If the market is going to run at these huge rates, as it has lately — 16.5-17 million — it'd be hard for us to gain a lot of market share because we're running full tilt,” says John G. Middlebrook, GM vice president and general manager-Vehicle Brand Marketing. “But if the market comes down to what we think is a more realistic level, 15-15.5 million, our capacity will certainly allow us to gain market share if our marketing is right and pricing is right. The test is in front of us for where our market share goes. But we're determined to take it north.”

And to help lure back the customers it's been losing to competitors, Mr. Middlebrook believes GM can use its emerging technological products, such as OnStar and in-vehicle entertainment systems. “I think some of the technology we have at our disposal with Hughes and others, OnStar is a good example, can help. I know you're going to see us get more aggressive with those types of things,” says Mr. Middlebrook.

Roy S. Roberts, GM vice president and group executive-North American Vehicle, Sales, Service and Marketing, adds, ‘We think there are a number of ways of conquesting customers in the future that we're not willing to tell anyone about right now.”