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The New York Times
May 12, 2022

Tire Wheel Vehicle Hood Automotive tire



The daughter of a G.M. die maker, Ms. Barra, 60, grew up in Royal Oak, Mich., and started working at a G.M. plant as an intern at 18 while studying electrical engineering at the company’s technical college, now called Kettering University. Through a G.M. fellowship, she earned a master’s in business administration at Stanford. Since entering the management ranks, she has held top posts in global manufacturing, human resources, product development and supply chain management.

In January 2014, she succeeded Daniel F. Akerson as chief executive and became the first woman to head a major auto company. Ms. Barra guided G.M. through a scandal stemming from an ignition-switch flaw linked to crashes that resulted in more than 100 deaths. She then made a series of decisions that showed that the General Motors that had recently emerged from bankruptcy was not the conservative, lumbering giant that consumers and investors had known for a century.

In a move that would once have been unthinkable, she decided to pull out of the European market, a region of slow growth and low margins where G.M. had been posting losses for two decades. G.M. sold its European operations to France’s Peugeot S.A., now part of Stellantis. Included in the sale was the Opel division, which had been owned by G.M. since 1929.

Shedding money-losing businesses that had been tolerated for years “helped change the whole mind-set,” she said. “The whole company kind of went, ‘Well, this is a new day.’”

G.M., which had long taken pride in developing its own technology, also acquired an automated vehicle start-up, Cruise Automation. In another precedent-breaking move, G.M. has brought in outside investors, including Honda and T. Rowe Price, to share the costs and risks of spending billions of dollars on self-driving vehicles.

Along the way, Ms. Barra formed a close partnership with Mr. Reuss, a contemporary who had been a candidate for the top job in 2014. He, too, has spent his career at G.M. and had followed his own father, Lloyd Reuss, a former president of the company.

While Ms. Barra was heading product development and Mr. Reuss was in charge of North America, they resolved to break away from the company’s reputation of making subpar cars. “We made a pact,” Mr. Barra recalled. “We said we are not going to do crappy vehicles. If we launch a vehicle, we want it to win.”

In the years Ms. Barra has been chief executive, she and Mr. Reuss have grown into a tandem. He heads product development and added the title of president in 2019. Last fall, when G.M. gathered investors and analysts to lay out a vision of doubling revenue to around $280 billion a year, the daylong conference was jointly led by Ms. Barra and Mr. Reuss.

Their thinking about quality came into play when G.M. started mapping out its long-term E.V. strategy. In late 2016 the Chevrolet Bolt hit the market. A small car with limited interior space and a battery range of 238 miles, well short of the range most Teslas offered at the time, it achieved only modest sales.

Because of a defect in battery packs made by LG, all 141,000 Bolts sold in the United States from 2017 to 2021 were recalled to have their packs replaced. The recall forced G.M. to stop making Bolts last fall. Production restarted last month.

To ensure that a second wave of E.V.s could generate profits and reach volume sales, Ms. Barra’s executive team concluded that the company could not make compromises as it did with the Bolt. Their aim was for the company to build E.V.s from the ground up, find cost reductions and manufacture the battery packs itself. G.M. has estimated that the Ultium design will cut the cost of battery packs by 30 percent.

With G.M.’s E.V. strategy well underway, Ms. Barra is confident that the company has chosen the right path, and her biggest concern is executing it as quickly as possible. “I drive the organization crazy because I’m constantly challenging the organization on how can we go faster,” she said. “Every time I go to design and see a vehicle they’re working on, I’m like, ‘How fast can we get that out?’”

And if her team needs a reminder of the urgency of the matter, the recent fanfare generated by Ford as the F-150 Lightning went into production does the job nicely.

“Do I wish the electric Silverado launch was coming sooner?” Ms. Barra said. “Sure.”








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“We made a pact,” Mr. Barra recalled. “We said we are not going to do crappy vehicles. If we launch a vehicle, we want it to win.”

Such a simple statement, yet GM for years in producing vehicles like the Vega and Citation, not to mention the Cadillac Cimarron, seemed to have no idea of the concept, and let the competition from Asia walk all over them.

Barra is undoubtedly, the best GM CEO of the last 50 years. The General Motors Corporation is in very good hands.









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“We made a pact,” Mr. Barra recalled. “We said we are not going to do crappy vehicles. If we launch a vehicle, we want it to win.”

Such a simple statement, yet GM for years in producing vehicles like the Vega and Citation, not to mention the Cadillac Cimarron, seemed to have no idea of the concept, and let the competition from Asia walk all over them.

Barra is undoubtedly, the best GM CEO of the last 50 years. The General Motors Corporation is in very good hands.









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Between her and Reuss, I think they have the proper leadership to bring out some quality product. GM still has an image issue, but I think they can change with Ultium.
 

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Between her and Reuss, I think they have the proper leadership to bring out some quality product. GM still has an image issue, but I think they can change with Ultium.
While I agree, GM trying to hype Ultium is absolutely flawed. When was the last time you saw an engine (I'm just using engine because battery pact and electric motors are the same) become the driving factor of turning around a company?

They need products to show how good it is! No one, outside car geeks and Wall Street, care about how much GM can potentially save by using Ultium.

Plus, I guess they didn't have this pact a few years ago when they dropped the new Silverado/Sierra. I mean, if you use the article they made this pact before the Bolt came out and yet, we've seen some vehicles that just don't make the cut either. I don't seems weird to be bragging about this.
 

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I actually think they're kind of mailing it in right now. Other than the full-size trucks/SUV's and the C8 Corvette, there isn't really anything to crow about. There isn't a cool car to go against the Charger/Challenger Hellcats, there isn't a cool truck at the level of the Raptor or TRX, there isn't a cool off roader to go against the Bronco, there isn't a cool new mini truck like the Maverick, the Bolt has no panache, they refuse to offer engines that can compete with the EcoBoosts, etc..

I realize they're putting all their eggs in the EV basket praying people will embrace the technology, but they could throw us enthusiasts a bone.

They could at least offer a supercharged 6.2L in the Silverado ZR2 dammit.
 

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While I agree, GM trying to hype Ultium is absolutely flawed. When was the last time you saw an engine (I'm just using engine because battery pact and electric motors are the same) become the driving factor of turning around a company?

They need products to show how good it is! No one, outside car geeks and Wall Street, care about how much GM can potentially save by using Ultium.

Plus, I guess they didn't have this pact a few years ago when they dropped the new Silverado/Sierra. I mean, if you use the article they made this pact before the Bolt came out and yet, we've seen some vehicles that just don't make the cut either. I don't seems weird to be bragging about this.
I think MB has done a fantastic job with GM. Of course not perfect, but better than any GM CEO in my lifetime of 53 years. I'll cut her some slack with some of the product misses - she started in 2014 with the ignition scandal that probably took a lot of her time in the first year or so. And then, to get the company to change its acceptance of mediocracy isn't going to happen overnight. Then throw in the 5 or so year lead time to get a product to market leads me to say that I think we've just started to see the fruits of MB's attempts to turn around GM's design. And we have seen many signs of change recently - really nice interiors with the latest trucks** - Escalade, Silverado, Denali, and other vehicles.

So I think something has changed in GM - but of course when this change happened is an unknown to us. Those who like MB will see the logic in my comments, those who don't will not and say BS and GM is still up to it's old tricks and only gives us good interiors when they get busted.

** When the Silverado/Sierra was launched a couple of years ago, that seemed to me to be very typical, old school GM. Very focused on a couple of metrics - specifically mixed metal design to cut weight. Something the customer can't really see and done at the expense of everything else. I don't think the interior was that bad, but they didn't have that top trim to compete with the new Ford and RAM interiors. But either way, I feel like that was still in the old school GM approach.
 

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I actually think they're kind of mailing it in right now. Other than the full-size trucks/SUV's and the C8 Corvette, there isn't really anything to crow about. There isn't a cool car to go against the Charger/Challenger Hellcats, there isn't a cool truck at the level of the Raptor or TRX, there isn't a cool off roader to go against the Bronco, there isn't a cool new mini truck like the Maverick, the Bolt has no panache, they refuse to offer engines that can compete with the EcoBoosts, etc..

I realize they're putting all their eggs in the EV basket praying people will embrace the technology, but they could throw us enthusiasts a bone.

They could at least offer a supercharged 6.2L in the Silverado ZR2 dammit.
Cool new Hummer, crazy C8 Vette, Escalade V, CT4 and CT5 V and V Blackwings... Could they have more, certainly - but I think they've thrown the kitchen sink into EV, as you said, and I'm fine with the sacrifices to get there. GM might have a miss on the trucks, but one can argue that the CT4 and 5 V's as well as the Camaro compete against the ancient Challenger/Charger. And there are some pretty serious off-road packages for the Colorado/Canyon.
 

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While I agree, GM trying to hype Ultium is absolutely flawed. When was the last time you saw an engine (I'm just using engine because battery pact and electric motors are the same) become the driving factor of turning around a company?

They need products to show how good it is! No one, outside car geeks and Wall Street, care about how much GM can potentially save by using Ultium.

Plus, I guess they didn't have this pact a few years ago when they dropped the new Silverado/Sierra. I mean, if you use the article they made this pact before the Bolt came out and yet, we've seen some vehicles that just don't make the cut either. I don't seems weird to be bragging about this.
There are several major flaws with your insinuation:

  • New engines that are worthy of note are rare, but those that are are legendary. The Ford v8 comes readily to mind. Another is the Buick Straight-8. The Mazda Rotary is another. The Honda CVCC is yet another. A Google search will remind me of many more.
  • Ultium is ever so much more than just a battery pack. There are too many posts about the virtues of Ultium elsewhere on GMI to repeat them here. Read them and be wise.
  • We read numerous posts that berate GM's marketing operation. With Ultium, GM has a revolutionary system that will be used to build electric cars and trucks and boats and locomotives and other things. When you have a facility that is this revolutionary, you promote it. Just because you don't like it is no reason for GM to keep its light under a bushel.
  • We are in the process of switching from a transportation system that relies on burning dinosaur fat to one that relies on the movement of electrons. The casual buyer needs to be educated about the change that we are making and the change that is coming.
 

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I think MB has done a fantastic job with GM. Of course not perfect, but better than any GM CEO in my lifetime of 53 years. I'll cut her some slack with some of the product misses - she started in 2014 with the ignition scandal that probably took a lot of her time in the first year or so. And then, to get the company to change its acceptance of mediocracy isn't going to happen overnight. Then throw in the 5 or so year lead time to get a product to market leads me to say that I think we've just started to see the fruits of MB's attempts to turn around GM's design. And we have seen many signs of change recently - really nice interiors with the latest trucks** - Escalade, Silverado, Denali, and other vehicles.

So I think something has changed in GM - but of course when this change happened is an unknown to us. Those who like MB will see the logic in my comments, those who don't will not and say BS and GM is still up to it's old tricks and only gives us good interiors when they get busted.

** When the Silverado/Sierra was launched a couple of years ago, that seemed to me to be very typical, old school GM. Very focused on a couple of metrics - specifically mixed metal design to cut weight. Something the customer can't really see and done at the expense of everything else. I don't think the interior was that bad, but they didn't have that top trim to compete with the new Ford and RAM interiors. But either way, I feel like that was still in the old school GM approach.
I just feel like the super quick MCEs have shown that it really doesn't take 5 or 6 years to get a product going in this day and age. To have your premier product get absolutely lambasted because of the interior (while everything else was absolutely top notch) always makes me question what they're really doing. Like, it took 2 years to get the new interiors, why even release them with what they had? Stop waiting and lead.

Cool new Hummer, crazy C8 Vette, Escalade V... Could they have more, certainly - but I think they've thrown the kitchen sink into EV, as you said, and I'm fine with the sacrifices to get there.
GM has awesome halo products for sure but the everyday person really doesn't have a lot of "cool" stuff. They're working on it like the ZR2, Bison but so many of the products just have names slapped on that really don't add much but GM isn't alone in this.
 

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There are several major flaws with your insinuation:

  • New engines that are worthy of note are rare, but those that are are legendary. The Ford v8 comes readily to mind. Another is the Buick Straight-8. The Mazda Rotary is another. The Honda CVCC is yet another. A Google search will remind me of many more.
  • Ultium is ever so much more than just a battery pack. There are too many posts about the virtues of Ultium elsewhere on GMI to repeat them here. Read them and be wise.
  • We read numerous posts that berate GM's marketing operation. With Ultium, GM has a revolutionary system that will be used to build electric cars and trucks and boats and locomotives and other things. When you have a facility that is this revolutionary, you promote it. Just because you don't like it is no reason for GM to keep its light under a bushel.
  • We are in the process of switching from a transportation system that relies on burning dinosaur fat to one that relies on the movement of electrons. The casual buyer needs to be educated about the change that we are making and the change that is coming.
No, no major flaws. GM is trying to position ultium wrong IMHO. They either need to brag more about its capabilities or stop. Release more technical information about it. Tesla does it's yearly broadcast and it's ate up like a kid getting into a mini donut bag. GM hasn't really done that or not that I've seen.

2021 GM Sustainability Report

There is this mindless corporate PDF though.

No one is going to be like, "OMG, you just got that new Ultium battery!?! That's incredible!!!" No, they go, "ohhh damn that's the new Hummer!" That's my whole issue with Ultium really. I love the product, hate the messaging.
 

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Crap is so subjective. I once knew an enthusiast with a Vega and someone with a decent Citation, now seniors hopefully. They liked their cars.
Mixed metal construction, to cut weight economically, would be a terrific thing. People would notice on enthusiast vehicles that aren't $60k plus crap.
Barra's outlook seems typical of her generation.
 

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While I agree, GM trying to hype Ultium is absolutely flawed. When was the last time you saw an engine (I'm just using engine because battery pact and electric motors are the same) become the driving factor of turning around a company?
Dodge did quite well with their "Hemi" ads a few years back.
 

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Wonder why that was?? It brought back their history. Ultium has no history.
And the Hemi is toast pretty soon. We can talk about the good ole days when big blocks roamed the earth, but time has changed, the market has grown with new competitors and if GM doesn't evolve then they will become dinosaurs as well. History starts with a change, the first gen SBC replaced the straight 6 and made the previous motors obsolete, That first gen small block is now history...replaced by the Gen 2 LT1, then, gen3 and gen4 LS/LT motors...the next progression is upon us. Being stuck in the past is not a recipe for survival. Don't get me wrong, I'd absolutely love a proper V8, the sounds and smell, the acceleration...I'm a gear head that loves old and new performance cars, but I'm not stuck on V8's. Hell, we have 4 cyl and 6 cyl cars that make more HP then V8's of 20-30 years ago. Some balance would be nice, and ICE powered cars will be around for a while. Ultium is a feather in GM's cap, and none of us know the what is in store, but I think they have all their ducks in a row and we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg right now.
 

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“We made a pact,” Mr. Barra recalled. “We said we are not going to do crappy vehicles. If we launch a vehicle, we want it to win.”

Such a simple statement, yet GM for years in producing vehicles like the Vega and Citation, not to mention the Cadillac Cimarron, seemed to have no idea of the concept, and let the competition from Asia walk all over them.

Barra is undoubtedly, the best GM CEO of the last 50 years. The General Motors Corporation is in very good hands.
Somewhat unfair comparison. For the time, the Vega was a well-engineered car, poorly executed. It won COTY, as did the Citation. Hindsight being 20/20, sure, they weren't great but nothing was really great at the time. The Cimmaron was unnecessary, plain and simple. The Allante was great, although too costly to produce. The Celebrity was good, the 6000 STE AWD was a technologically great car.
 
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