442. Is it Too Late for General Motors to Go Electric?

    en-usDecember 03, 2020

    Podcast Summary

    • Mary Barra's Vision for General Motors' Electric FutureMary Barra is leading General Motors' push for electric vehicles and sees competition from Tesla as validation of their strategy. With the goal of producing 30 electric vehicles by 2025, GM aims to be part of the solution for climate change.

      Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has successfully modernized the traditionally conservative car company and is pushing for a greener future with electrification of their entire fleet of vehicles. She acknowledges competition from Tesla and Nio, but sees their success as validation of GM's strategy and growth opportunities in the electric vehicle market. Despite any challenges ahead, such as industry projections often being inaccurate and the ongoing ordeal of buying a new car, Barra remains committed to the company's goal of producing 30 electric vehicles by 2025. With her leadership, GM aims to be part of the solution for climate change by putting everyone in an electric vehicle.

    • The Evolution of American Automakers: From Gas-Guzzlers to Tech CompaniesAmerican automaker brands like GM and Ford are shifting towards becoming tech companies by monetizing customer data. To succeed in this transition, having a leader who can convert an industrial company into a tech darling is key.

      American automaker brands like General Motors and Ford are no longer dominating the car industry as they have in the past due to their heavy reliance on gas-guzzling trucks and SUVs, which is becoming increasingly problematic in the current climate change debate. In an attempt to evolve into 21st-century tech companies, automakers like Ford are attempting to monetize customer data similar to how Google and Facebook does. As shown by the removal of Jim Hackett as Ford's CEO, it's not enough to have a leader with impressive credentials, but rather one that can convert a 20th-century industrial company into a 21st-century tech darling.

    • Mary Barra's Leadership in the Transformation of General MotorsMary Barra's focus on electrification and innovation supported the successful pivot of General Motors towards autonomy, sharing and connectivity while empowering subject matter experts to drive decision making.

      Mary Barra's rise to CEO of General Motors was not an easy climb, but her experience and knowledge of the company has helped steer it through difficult times. Barra's focus on electrification has been a major part of GM's strategy, working towards the four major areas where technology is changing the way people move: propulsion, autonomy, sharing and connectivity. Despite the challenges that lie ahead, Barra knows that if a company doesn't move with the times and offer customers the best value and experience, it won't survive. In order to change entrenched bad habits within the company, she empowers her subject-matter experts and gives them the space to make the right decisions.

    • GM's Shift to Empowering Employees for Increased ProductivityTrusting employees to dress appropriately and be accountable promotes a positive work culture. Empowerment, combined with clear direction, increases efficiency and paves the way for successful outcomes even during unprecedented times.

      By empowering employees to 'dress appropriately' instead of having an 18-20 page dress code, GM's CEO Mary Barra created a culture of trust and accountability, challenging leaders to be more effective. This mindset also allowed the company to accelerate their electric vehicle plan when faced with the Covid-19 crisis, proving that an empowered team with clear directions can take time out of the process.

    • General Motors' Shift Towards Electric Vehicles.General Motors is entering the EV market by focusing on creating an ecosystem for adoption rather than just producing cars. Customers emphasize the need for range and charging infrastructure, signaling a shift towards EV preference.

      General Motors began prototyping electric vehicles in the 1980s, but backed away just as Tesla was getting started due to high production costs and low demand. However, recent customer trends and changing perceptions about electric vehicles have led General Motors to accelerate their entry into the EV market. Customers have emphasized the need for a vehicle with the right range (around 300 miles) and a robust charging infrastructure. General Motors is now working towards creating an ecosystem for EV adoption, rather than just focusing on the vehicle itself. This shift towards EVs shows that despite setbacks in the past, General Motors is taking steps to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market.

    • General Motors Strives for 1 Million EVs by 2025 with Focus on Affordable OptionsGM plans to offer a range of electric vehicles, even in the truck and SUV segments, while relying on the success of its traditional vehicles to fund development. Their financial strategy of becoming leaner is paying off.

      General Motors plans to have over a million electric vehicles on the road in North America and China by 2025. However, they also understand that consumers prefer trucks and SUVs. Therefore, G.M. is investing in affordable electric vehicles across multiple segments, not just high-end. The company's strong truck business is funding their ability to develop electric vehicles. Additionally, every time G.M. puts out a new generation of trucks, it becomes more fuel-efficient. While G.M.'s push towards electric development is expensive, their financial strategy of becoming much leaner is working. They have cut their global workforce and have good third-quarter numbers despite the pandemic.

    • GM Sees Strong Auto Demand Despite COVID-19 DisruptionsDespite the pandemic, people still want to buy cars and dealers are important assets to the industry. GM recommends some negotiation when buying a car, despite franchise laws requiring dealer independence.

      Despite unpredictable disruptions due to COVID-19, General Motors (GM) is seeing strong demand for autos in China and the United States. While people may not drive as much, they still want their own vehicle, leading to recovery in the industry. GM believes dealers are true assets, due to their knowledge, relationships in communities, and focus on the customer experience. However, the auto industry's sales model, which often involves haggling over prices, could be improved. While franchise laws require auto dealers to operate separately from manufacturers, GM CEO Mary Barra stated that a little negotiation is recommended when buying a car.

    • General Motors CEO Mary Barra on COVID-era online car-buying, bailouts, and recallsThe pandemic has accelerated the shift to online car-buying, but companies should adapt to meet customer needs. During the 2009 crisis, GM received aid they were not entitled to, but worked to repay it and reinvent the company. Effective crisis management is key.

      General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, discusses how COVID-19 accelerated the shift to online car buying, making it a more convenient option for customers. She also highlights how their job is to meet customers where they want to be met, and so if they want a complete online experience, they’re offering it today. Barra also talks about her role during the 2009 financial crisis, and the decision to bail out GM. She acknowledges the aid received was not something they were ever entitled to and worked hard to pay back the loans and reinvent GM. Finally, the recalls of over 700,000 faulty vehicles posed a crisis for GM, which they managed to navigate through effectively.

    • Lessons Learned from G.M.'s Switchgate ScandalIn a crisis, demonstrating values such as putting the customer first and being transparent is crucial. Lack of transparency and failure to listen to customers can lead to lost trust and costly consequences.

      G.M.'s faulty switches caused 124 deaths and resulted in a fine of $1 billion. Mary Barra, the C.E.O., was hauled in to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee and fired 15 employees. The company created a new position of vice president of global vehicle safety. In a crisis, it is crucial to demonstrate values by doing what is right for the customer, being transparent, and doing everything possible to prevent recurrence. G.M. had failed to do this earlier because they didn't listen to the customer and lacked transparency. Barra learned from the experience and made these values the driving force behind the company's operations. In today's world, transparency is necessary to build trust and keep customers informed.

    • The Importance of Diversity and Education in Tech, According to Mary BarraMary Barra, CEO of GM, believes that diversity in leadership and education can improve decision-making. She encourages girls and boys to pursue tech careers and hopes for a future where gender is not emphasized.

      General Motors CEO Mary Barra emphasizes the importance of education in solving issues of inequity, and encourages young girls and boys to pursue technology. She also argues that the broader diversity in leadership leads to better decision-making and strategies. Barra, the first female CEO of a large automotive company, acknowledges the power of her success to inspire young women to pursue careers in STEM. However, she hopes for a future where gender is not highlighted. Barra's background in engineering has served her well in problem-solving throughout her career. She also speaks positively about GM's relationship and history with China in manufacturing and selling autos.

    • General Motors' Success in China and Challenges AheadDespite current economic struggles, General Motors has a successful history in China. However, revenue from China is relatively small compared to North America due to pricing differences and macro issues.

      General Motors has a long track record of success in the Chinese market, despite some current economic struggles. With the potential for continued growth and a significant market size, China remains an important focus for the company. However, the revenue generated from China is relatively small compared to North America due to a combination of factors, including macro issues in markets like South America and the presence of lower-priced vehicles in the Chinese market. Additionally, the range of prices for General Motors' products in China is far greater than in the United States. These differences in revenue and pricing can be attributed to various factors, including labor costs, supply-chain costs, and currency.

    • Challenges and Benefits of Autonomous Driving Technology in Vehicle SafetyAutonomous driving technology can make vehicles safer by reducing human error, but there are still challenges to overcome before fully deploying it. The advancement of technology will continue to help reduce global traffic deaths.

      Regulatory differences between countries create varying standards for vehicle safety, making it difficult to sell entry-level cars in the U.S. for very low prices. Autonomous driving technology is expected to make vehicles safer due to the reduction of human error, which is responsible for 90% of traffic fatalities. However, there are challenges to overcome before autonomous vehicles can be fully deployed, including solving for corner cases and public acceptance. Despite the challenges, technology will continue to advance and help reduce the number of traffic deaths globally, which presently stands at 1.3 million per year

    • GM's Focus on Safety and Plans for Autonomous Driving TechnologyGM is prioritizing safety in their approach to autonomous driving technology and their Super Cruise system is receiving positive feedback. Adoption of autonomous vehicles will likely start in cities and impact community changes like parking.

      GM is focused on safety standards before implementing autonomous driving technology. Their Super Cruise technology has received positive feedback from customers and is likely to become a standard feature in their vehicles. The adoption of autonomous vehicles will likely first take place in dense urban environments and will have a significant impact on the efficiency and changes in communities, such as the use of parking spaces. GM's acquisition of Cruise Automation, along with its partnership testing autonomous delivery vehicles with Walmart and the approval for testing in San Francisco, show their commitment to developing this technology. With regards to Trump's approach to China, GM's CEO stresses the importance of a level playing field for fair competition.

    • Mary Barra's leadership lessons for women in businessRegardless of political affiliations, be open to working with anyone and demonstrate your leadership through action. Don't be discouraged by the concept of the glass cliff, you can succeed in leading a troubled organization and inspire others.

      Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, emphasizes the importance of being open to work with anybody, regardless of their political affiliations. She also demonstrates leadership by taking action, as seen in her decision to no longer work with the Trump administration's legal team regarding emissions regulations in California. Additionally, Barra challenges the concept of the glass cliff, which suggests that women in leadership positions are often elevated in troubled organizations and are more likely to fail. Despite General Motors facing a recent bankruptcy and safety scandal when Barra became CEO, she has succeeded in leading the company. Therefore, Barra serves as a counterexample for the glass cliff theory and provides inspiration for female leaders.

    Recent Episodes from Freakonomics Radio

    597. Why Do Your Eyeglasses Cost $1,000?

    597. Why Do Your Eyeglasses Cost $1,000?

    A single company, EssilorLuxottica, owns so much of the eyewear industry that it’s hard to escape their gravitational pull — or their “obscene” markups. Should regulators do something? Can Warby Parker steal market share? And how did Ray-Bans become a luxury brand? (Part one of a two-part series.)


    • SOURCES:
      • Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker.
      • Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker.
      • Jessica Glasscock, fashion historian and lecturer at the Parsons School of Design.
      • Neil Handley, curator of the British Optical Association Museum at the College of Optometrists.
      • Ryan McDevitt, professor of economics at Duke University.
      • Cédric Rossi, equity research analyst at Bryan Garnier.
      • Tim Wu, professor of law, science and technology at Columbia Law School.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJuly 18, 2024

    EXTRA: People Aren’t Dumb. The World Is Hard. (Update)

    EXTRA: People Aren’t Dumb. The World Is Hard. (Update)

    You wouldn’t think you could win a Nobel Prize for showing that humans tend to make irrational decisions. But that’s what Richard Thaler has done. In an interview from 2018, the founder of behavioral economics describes his unlikely route to success; his reputation for being lazy; and his efforts to fix the world — one nudge at a time.


    • SOURCES:
      • Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJuly 15, 2024

    596. Farewell to a Generational Talent

    596. Farewell to a Generational Talent

    Daniel Kahneman left his mark on academia (and the real world) in countless ways. A group of his friends and colleagues recently gathered in Chicago to reflect on this legacy — and we were there, with microphones.


    • SOURCES:
      • Maya Bar-Hillel, professor emeritus of psychology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
      • Shane Frederick, professor of marketing at the Yale School of Management.
      • Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University.
      • Matt Killingsworth, senior fellow at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
      • Barbara Mellers, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
      • Eldar Shafir, director of the Kahneman-Treisman Center for Behavioral Science & Public Policy at Princeton University.
      • Richard Thaler, professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJuly 11, 2024

    595. Why Don't We Have Better Candidates for President?

    595. Why Don't We Have Better Candidates for President?

    American politics is trapped in a duopoly, with two all-powerful parties colluding to stifle competition. We revisit a 2018 episode to explain how the political industry works, and talk to a reformer (and former presidential candidate) who is pushing for change.


    • SOURCES:



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJuly 04, 2024

    594. Your Brand’s Spokesperson Just Got Arrested — Now What?

    594. Your Brand’s Spokesperson Just Got Arrested — Now What?

    It’s hard to know whether the benefits of hiring a celebrity are worth the risk. We dig into one gruesome story of an endorsement gone wrong, and find a surprising result.


    • SOURCES:
      • John Cawley, professor of economics at Cornell University.
      • Elizabeth (Zab) Johnson, executive director and senior fellow with the Wharton Neuroscience Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.
      • Alvin Roth, professor of economics at Stanford University.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 27, 2024

    593. You Can Make a Killing, but Not a Living

    593. You Can Make a Killing, but Not a Living

    Broadway operates on a winner-take-most business model. A runaway hit like Stereophonic — which just won five Tony Awards — will create a few big winners. But even the stars of the show will have to go elsewhere to make real money. (Part two of a two-part series.)




    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 20, 2024

    EXTRA: The Fascinatingly Mundane Secrets of the World’s Most Exclusive Nightclub

    EXTRA: The Fascinatingly Mundane Secrets of the World’s Most Exclusive Nightclub

    The Berlin dance mecca Berghain is known for its eight-hour line and inscrutable door policy. PJ Vogt, host of the podcast Search Engine, joins us to crack the code. It has to do with Cold War rivalries, German tax law, and one very talented bouncer.


    • SOURCES:
      • Lutz Leichsenring, executive board member of Clubcommission Berlin and co-founder of VibeLab.
      • PJ Vogt, reporter, writer, and host of the podcast Search Engine.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 17, 2024

    592. How to Make the Coolest Show on Broadway

    592. How to Make the Coolest Show on Broadway

    Hit by Covid, runaway costs, and a zillion streams of competition, serious theater is in serious trouble. A new hit play called Stereophonic — the most Tony-nominated play in history — has something to say about that. We speak with the people who make it happen every night. (Part one of a two-part series.)



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 13, 2024

    591. Signs of Progress, One Year at a Time

    591. Signs of Progress, One Year at a Time

    Every December, a British man named Tom Whitwell publishes a list of 52 things he’s learned that year. These fascinating facts reveal the spectrum of human behavior, from fraud and hypocrisy to Whitwell’s steadfast belief in progress. Should we also believe?



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 06, 2024

    EXTRA: The Opioid Tragedy — How We Got Here

    EXTRA: The Opioid Tragedy — How We Got Here

    An update of our 2020 series, in which we spoke with physicians, researchers, and addicts about the root causes of the crisis — and the tension between abstinence and harm reduction.


    • SOURCES:
      • Gail D’Onofrio, professor and chair of emergency medicine at the Yale School of Medicine and chief of emergency services at Yale-New Haven Health.
      • Keith Humphreys, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University.
      • Stephen Loyd, chief medical officer of Cedar Recovery and chair of the Tennessee Opioid Abatement Council.
      • Nicole O’Donnell, certified recovery specialist at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Addiction Medicine and Policy.
      • Jeanmarie Perrone, professor of emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.
      • Eileen Richardson, restaurant manager.



    Freakonomics Radio
    en-usJune 03, 2024

    Related Episodes

    TPM Episode 287: Mike Adams, Industry Legend

    TPM Episode 287: Mike Adams, Industry Legend

    Mike Adams’s legendary 45-year career in snow business has come to an end. I was able to catch up with the man responsible for some of the most iconic products of our time during his last week in the industry. It’s a history lesson of the business from the man responsible for bringing the shaped ski to North America. The podcast talks about all things Moog, Molnar, Elan, Salomon, and Atomic. It’s another don’t miss business episode with a true snow sports legend.

    Mike Adams Show Notes:

    3:30:  Salomon inline skates, his childhood and skiing racing   

    12:30:  Pranks at Holderness; how does he get his Moog and Molnar jobs, Geze, president of Elan and the Montauk sales group

    18:15:  Stanley:  Get 30% off sitewide with the code drinkfast

    Peter Glenn Ski and Sports:  Over 60 years of getting you out there

    10 Barrel Brewery:  Buy their beers; they support action sports more than anyone

    27:15:  Sidecut Extreme, bringing it to the US, the SCX takes over and pitching Salomon on the SCX

    31:00:  The X-Scream, the Snow-Blade, and the 1080

    39:00:  Rollerblade: Ski season may be over, but that feeling lasts all year with inline skating

    Elan Skis:  Over 75 years of innovation that makes you better

    40:30:  Salomon Snowboards, the Amer purchase, and bringing Atomic back to life

    56:00:  Overseeing Atomic and Salomon at the same time, new ownership, and going away from a portfolio management system the day Mike leaves

    65:00:  Inappropriate Questions

    Leading Through 11 C's (wsg Cheri Alexander)

    Leading Through 11 C's (wsg Cheri Alexander)

    A machine on your advisory board? Host Gregg Garrett is joined by Cheri Alexander, a professor at the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, for a discussion on machines joining virtual boards, lessons learned through Cheri’s 30+ years of leading a Fortune 50 company as well as over a decade of educating one of the world’s top business schools. Cheri also shares her Top Three ranging from her husband who taught her to challenge herself to colleagues who reinforced surrounding yourself with people who know more than you to an aspirational mentor turned colleague who taught her about positive leadership. And you have to hear what she says about the 11 C’s of Leadership.

    About Cheri Alexander

    Cheri Alexander teaches Leadership and Managing Human Capital in the Bachelors and Masters Programs at the University of Michigan, Ross School of Business. In addition, she teaches assorted leadership and HR topics for Ross Execution Education. Prior to January 2021, she was the Chief Innovation Officer-Corporate Learning in the Ross Executive Education Department. Before her time at Ross, she was with General Motors (GM), where prior to retirement, she was the President of the General Motors University and Executive Director Global HR. In that position, she was the Chief Learning Officer of the company overseeing Global Learning & Performance. Alexander was also part of the company’s Global Integration Team that oversaw Global HR Implementation, focusing on the emerging markets.

    Alexander had thirty-three years with GM which included successful International Human Resource Management and Labor Relations experiences. She has HR expertise in Mergers and Acquisitions, JV formation and execution, talent management, succession planning, leadership development, corporate universities, security, crisis management, safety, industrial health engineering, and business process outsourcing. She was nominated several times and twice received the prestigious Chairman’s Award for her work. Since joining the University of Michigan in 2008, she has continued her positive leadership practices.

    In addition to working in the Human Capital space, Alexander had assignments in Plant Management, Quality, and Engineering. She lived and worked in 4 countries on 3 continents and was responsible for all HR outside of North America, as the Vice President of HR for International Operations, overseeing and visiting operations in 51 countries.

    A native of Detroit, Michigan, Alexander received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Michigan, as well as her first Masters in Industrial Health Engineering. She was selected as an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow and completed her Masters of Science in Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She is also a Certified Executive Leadership Coach.

    Alexander has published word on Noise Induced Hearing Loss and completed her thesis on the Relocation of Dislocated Automobile Workers. Her work is cited in three books, United We Stand, by Wilbur and Weakley, Successful Mergers, Acquisitions, and Strategic Alliances by Gancel, Rodgers, and Raynaud, and Road to Power, by Colby. Along with Professors Sytch and DeRue, she teaches Managing Talent in the highly successful Coursera MOOC, Leading People and Teams.

    In addition to her work, Alexander is on the Boards of Inforum Center for Leadership and debunk-it, LTD, a European consultancy. She is dedicated to global education and often speaks on her favorite topics, “Being International” and “Global Superficial Homogenization – White it Means to be Global.”   

    Show Highlights

    During this episode:

    Building your virtual board: When will a machine be added? [0:59]

    Thought: AI holds the first spot of your advisory board; is this the right answer? [6:18]

    Welcome human-centric guest, Cheri Alexander [7:02]

    The “Top Three”

    Dr. Richard Redding: Cheri’s husband who teaches her to challenge herself [13:38]

    Cheri’s 11 C’s of Leadership [16:12]

    Holger Kimmes: Colleague who reinforced surrounding yourself with others who know more than you [27:37]

    Dr. Robert Quinn: An aspirational mentor turned colleague who taught her about positive leadership [41:50]

    A bonus Top Three member: Cheri’s daughter, Dr. Alexis Redding [46:32]

    Transformation & Disruption

    Innovation in education [48:00]

    Machines vs Humans: How competition moves forward [51:27]

    You have to hear this…

    Write down three things you’re grateful for everyday [54:27]

    Additional Information

    Contact Cheri Alexander:

    Contact Gregg Garrett:

    Contact CGS Advisors:



    5:26 General Motors is in a position in the market that if they made a minor mistake, they really wouldn't show up too bad. 6:06 Xerox, Kodak, General Motors. And a little agency known as US Census Bureau 9:38 Ronald Reagan, we got deeply involved in that and got to know him and his family. [He didn't want to say what he was going to be helpful to him. He wanted to say, what he knew to be true. And what he wanted to do. That was a that was a really important insight to me.] 14:04 OnStar was really quite an undertaking. 17:51 Issues at Kodak 21:40 the key element in improving the decision making process is to record the process. 23:00 assumption 24:49 a good decision takes into consideration what the expected outcome is, and then lists the assumptions that have to be made, to create that outcome, and then to measure as best you can, with the extent to which those assumptions are true. 26:38 Following World War ll, GMs factories are making you military equipment. And so therefore, after the war, since there were no new cars during the war, there was an incredible increase in demand for vehicles. 30:00 automotive companies have always had what's called decision friction between engineering push, and consumer pull 37:44 inputs that research provided for OnStar 38:39 Kodak: digital versus silver halide 41:24 Vince's latest book, A SYSTEMS THINKING DECISION MAKING PROCESS. ...key takeaways for automotive professionals making decisions? 43:15 Avoid Burnt Toast. 46:21 When the shuttle exploded...it was time to prepare the president's speech 52:57 GE was a very engineering push firm.

    Microsoft's Hard Landing, Bitcoin Bounces Back, and Inside Twitter with Zoe Schiffer

    Microsoft's Hard Landing, Bitcoin Bounces Back, and Inside Twitter with Zoe Schiffer
    Kara and Scott discuss Microsoft layoffs, cryptocurrency’s surprising recovery, and Jacinda Ardern’s resignation. Plus, someone bought a Twitter bird statue for $100k, and it wasn’t Kara. Friend of Pivot Zoë Schiffer (@zoeschiffer) joins to discuss all of her recent Twitter reporting, including the work that went in to this week’s major New York Magazine story, which you can read here. Send us your questions! Call 855-51-PIVOT or go to nymag.com/pivot. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices