continues to reap the rewards of its North American restructuring, booking monthly sales gains while remaining disciplined on incentives in the U.S. to bolster profitability. In China the automaker has begun cementing its leadership position in the world’s largest market by accelerating the rollout of Chevrolet products and introducing additional Cadillac models.
An aggressive new-product rollout in South America has GM regaining share in the big Brazilian market, while elsewhere in the world it is firming up its position in smaller countries with big promise, such as Indonesia.
However, Europe’s persistent financial woes have kept a lid on GM sales there and the automaker recently announced plans to remove the Chevrolet brand from the continent to focus purely on accelerating the turnaround at the region’s core Opel and Vauxhall units.
GM Vice Chairman Steve Girksy leads activities at the automaker regarding corporate strategy, business development and global product planning. He also has a front-row seat to GM’s European restructuring, where he serves as chairman of the Opel Supervisory Board and between 2012 and early 2013 spent time as interim president of GM Europe.
Girsky shares with WardsAuto his views on GM’s global strategy amid fluctuating fuel economy and emissions regulations, as well as the automaker’s outlook on Europe and emerging markets such as Mexico.
WardsAuto: The European Union recently pushed back its 95 g/km carbon-dioxide target from 2020 to 2024. How does that affect GM’s product-planning strategy?
Girsky: CO2 negotiations on European level are ongoing and there has been no outcome. Whatever the outcome, we will adhere to the rules of the countries or regions where we do business. That said, we are planning for continued pressure on CO2 globally over the next decade.
WardsAuto: Any progress on your GM Europe/Opel restructuring efforts you can share?
Girsky: We are executing our long-term plan, called “DRIVE 2022,” that we’re confident will return our business to profitability. This plan includes a well-defined growth strategy, a strong product offensive with 23 new models and 13 new powertrains through 2016, and initiatives to increase flexibility and reduce costs. We are seeing some early positive results with new models in growing segments, like the Opel/Vauxhall Mokka. We are also pleased with favorable year-over-year financial performance in our most recent quarterly earnings, keeping us on track to achieve break-even by mid-decade.
WardsAuto: Beyond the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China) what is the most promising emerging market and why?
Girsky: There are a few interesting emerging markets outside of the BRICs.The ASEAN region has strong upside due to its large population and economic growth potential and Mexico has strong potential because of its close linkage with the U.S., several free-trade agreements and the opening of the energy sector.
WardsAuto: What steps will GM be taking to increase sales and market share in its consolidated international operations?
Girsky: We have had many product launches this year such as the Chevrolet Impala, Trax, Sail Sedan and Spin in key markets in our international operations. At the same time we are undergoing a business transformation as part of our commitment to building strong brands that connect with customers across our markets. We are currently evaluating all of our operations in the region including our future product plans. We also just announced that we are establishing a new headquarters in Singapore in 2014. Having a team in Singapore will offer several advantages including greater proximity to key markets such as ASEAN and India, the Middle East and Africa.
WardsAuto: What current industry trend would you like to see go away?
Girsky: We would like to see regulations homologatedbetween Europe, China and North America. Significant savings could be achieved if safety and CO2 standards are commonized, and these could be passed on to the consumer.