General Motors is disproving the adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. It’s a “changed company” on track to become a “trendsetter” once again, thanks to a new vision and a commitment to putting the customer at the centre of everything it does. Pictured from left to right are Chamber President Cris Douglas of CRCS Disaster Kleenup, Oshawa Mayor John Henry and Kevin Williams, President of GM of Canada.
“We now have a clear and simple vision: to design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles,” Kevin Williams, President and Managing Director, GM of Canada Limited, told about 125 business leaders and politicians at a recent breakfast hosted by the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s not about being ‘competitive’, it’s not about being ‘as good as’. It’s about being the best. I know that sounds very fundamental, but the absence of this focus was a critical flaw in the old GM,” he admitted in a candid address. “We are no longer focused on being the big dog at all costs. That was not a healthy business model.”
With the dark days of restructuring firmly behind it, GM is committed to delivering the best and listening to its customers, which includes taking advantage of social media to build stronger relationships.
And though GM vehicles are earning awards—Chevrolet Volt was named North American Car of the Year at the recent Detroit Auto Show—the company isn’t prepared to rest on its laurels. It’s releasing more small, midsize and compact vehicles—including the Chevrolet Cruze, Spark micro car and Orlando compact seven-passenger vehicle—to meet the needs of its customers.
Strong customer sales indicates GM’s on the right track, said Mr. Williams, head of Canadian operations for the past nine months. Retail sales for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac were up over 26 per cent last year, outpacing the industry by a substantial margin, he reported.
In turn, strong sales fuel the need for increased production. Over the past 18 months, GM has announced more than $1 billion in capital commitments to Canadian facilities, securing over 2,900 jobs. In Oshawa, that amounts to 1,300 jobs and a return to work for laid-off production workers and new jobs for another 300.
The City of Oshawa will be one of seven launch sites for the Volt. As home of GM’s Canadian Engineering Centre, it will also push GM to be a Canadian leader in research and development. The humbled auto giant has committed to spending almost $900 million on R&D in Canada through 2016.
That includes its partnership with the GM Automotive Centre of Excellence (ACE) currently being completed at Oshawa’s University of Ontario Institute of Technology. “The ACE facility will be the first commercial automotive innovation centre of its kind in the world, and GM is playing a leading role in enabling this collaborative effort,” Mr. Williams said.
“We’re at an inflection point, shifting from ‘rebuilding’ to ‘running our own game’, and we plan to be a trendsetter once again.”