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    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.

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