The General Motors Company Overview Business Essay

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General Motors Company was formed in 2009 originally as a Delaware limited liability company, Vehicle Acquisition Holdings LLC and subsequently converted to a Delaware corporation, NGMCO, Inc. The conversion followed the acquisition on July 10, 2009 of a substantial part of all assets while assuming certain liabilities of General Motors Corporation through a 363 Sale under the Bankruptcy Code and subsequent change of name to General Motors Company (General Motors, 2012). As a result of the 363 Sale and other recent restructuring and cost savings initiatives, GM 2012 has improved its financial position and level of operational flexibility as compared to when Old GM operated the business. They commenced operations upon completion of the 363 Sale with a total amount of debt and other liabilities at July 10, 2009 that was $92.7 billion less than Old GM's total amount of debt and other liabilities at July 9, 2009. They reached a competitive labour agreement with their unions, restructured their dealer network and reduced and refocused their brand strategy in the U.S. to their four brands (General Motors, 2011). In November and December of 2010 they consummated a public offering of 550 million shares of their common stock and 100 million shares of Series B Preferred Stock and listed both of these securities on the New York Stock Exchange and the common stock on the Toronto Stock Exchange (General Motors, 2012).

Today, General Motors Company is a brand new company with 100 years of history. They remain one of the world's largest automotive companies with operations in 120 countries and more than 200,000 employees around the world. In 2010, they sold 8.39 million vehicles, more than three-quarters of which were sold outside the U.S. (General Motors, 2011).

Small Business Units (SBUs) within GM

General Motors Company is divided into five segments, namely GM North America (GMNA), GM Europe (GME), GM International Operations (GMIO), GM South America (GMSA) and GM Financial (General Motors, 2012). Each of these segments can be considered as a Strategic Business Units (SBU).

Automotive Business

GM product range includes a global vehicle portfolio of cars, crossovers and trucks. GM is committed to leadership in vehicle design, quality, reliability, telematics and infotainment and safety, as well as to developing key energy efficiency, energy diversity and advanced propulsion technologies, including electric vehicles with range extending capabilities such as the Chevrolet Volt. Their business is diversified across products and geographic markets. They meet the local sales and service needs of their retail and fleet customers with a global network of independent dealers. Of their total 2011 vehicle sales volume, 72.3% was generated outside the U.S., including 43.4% from emerging markets, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China (collectively BRIC), which have recently experienced the industry's highest volume growth. Their automotive business is organized into four geographically-based segments (GM North America (GMNA), GM Europe (GME), GM International Operations (GMIO), GM South America (GMSA)) (General Motors, 2012).

GMNA, with sales, manufacturing and distribution operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, and sales and distribution operations in Central America and the Caribbean, represented 32.4% of their vehicle sales volume in 2011 and had the largest market share in this market at 18.4% (General Motors, 2012).

GME has sales, manufacturing and distribution operations across Western and Central Europe. GME's vehicle sales volume, which in addition to Western and Central Europe, includes Eastern Europe (including Russia and the other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States among others), represented 19.2% of their vehicle sales volume in 2011. In 2011 they had the number four market share in this market at 8.8%.

GMIO distributes Chevrolet brand vehicles which, when sold in Europe, are included in GME vehicle sales volume and market share data (General Motors, 2012). GMIO has sales, manufacturing and distribution operations in Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Vehicle sales volume, which includes Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, is their largest segment by vehicle sales volume representing 36.6% of global vehicle sales volume including sales through their joint ventures in 2011. In 2011, GMIO had the number two market share for this market at 9.5% and the number one market share in China overall deriving 77.1% of its vehicle sales volume from China (General Motors, 2012).

GMSA, with sales, manufacturing and distribution operations in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela as well as sales and distribution operations in Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay represented 11.8% of their vehicle sales volume in 2011. In 2011 they had the largest market share for this market at 18.8% and the number three market share in Brazil. GMSA derived 59.4% of its vehicle sales volume from Brazil (General Motors, 2012).

Automotive Financing

GM Financial specializes in purchasing retail automobile instalment sales contracts originated by GM and non-GM franchised and selected independent dealers in sale of used and new automobiles. GM Financial also offers lease products through GM dealerships in connection with the sale of used and new automobiles that target customers with sub-prime and prime credit bureau scores. GM Financial primarily generates revenue and cash flows through the purchase, retention, subsequent securitization and servicing of finance receivables. To fund the acquisition of receivables prior to securitization, this financial arm uses available cash and borrowings under its credit facilities. GM Financial earns finance charge income on finance receivables and pays interest expense on borrowings under its credit facilities. Periodically it transfers receivables to securitization trusts that issue asset-backed securities to investors. The securitization trusts are special purpose entities (SPEs) that are also variable interest entities that meet the requirements to be consolidated in the financial statements (General Motors, 2012).

Current Business Strategies at GM

Generic Strategy

GM uses differentiation focus strategy, as its competitive strategy. In Britain, you can buy a Vauxhall, a Chevrolet, a Saab, a Cadillac or a Hummer. On the Continent, you can trade in the Vauxhall for an Opel. In China, perhaps you'd prefer a Buick, in Dubai a GMC. How about a Holden? Well, you'll have to travel to Australia or New Zealand but they are all General Motors brands. Rather than focusing on one product, GM wants its consumers to be able to choose from a variety. Chevrolets are being marketed to entry-level car buyers, particularly in Eastern and Central Europe. Opels and Vauxhalls are for middle market consumers with a "progressive" take on new technology, Cadillacs have proved popular with wealthy buyers in Russia and Hummers are for people who like Hummers, wherever they happen to be (Pfanner, 2008).

Chapter 7

Strategy directions

Their vision is to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles. The primary elements of their strategy to achieve this vision are to: Deliver a product portfolio of the world's best vehicles, allowing them to maximize sales under any market conditions. Sell their vehicles globally by targeting developed markets, which are projected to have increases in vehicle demand as the global economy recovers, and further strengthening their position in high growth emerging markets. Improve revenue realization and maintain a competitive cost structure to allow them to remain profitable at lower industry volumes and across the lifecycle of their product portfolio and maintain a strong balance sheet by reducing financial leverage given the high operating leverage of their business model (General Motors, 2012).

Product development

Product development strategy is defined as; developing new products or modifying existing products so they appear new, and offering those products to current or new markets. There is nothing simple about the process. It requires keen attention to competitors and customer needs now and in the future, the ability to finance prototypes and manufacturing processes and a creative marketing and communications plan (Nielsen, 2012).

GM uses product development as its corporate strategy by maintaining a broad portfolio of vehicles so that they are positioned to meet global consumer preferences through the following ways: Concentrate their design, engineering and marketing resources on fewer brands and architectures. Increase the volume of vehicles produced from common global architectures to more than 50% of total volumes in 2015 from less than 17% today. They expect that this initiative will result in greater investment per architecture and brand and will increase product development and manufacturing flexibility, allowing maintenance of a steady schedule of important new product launches in the future. The four brand strategy in the U.S. will continue to enable GM to allocate higher marketing expenditures per brand (General Motors, 2012).

Develop products across vehicle segments in GM global markets: To develop vehicles in each of the key segments of the global markets in which GM competes. For example, in September 2010 the Chevrolet Cruze was introduced into the U.S. small car segment, an important and growing segment where historically GM had been under represented (General Motors, 2012).

Continued investment in a portfolio of technologies: Continue to invest in technologies that support energy diversity and energy efficiency as well as in safety, telematics and infotainment technology. Commitment to advanced propulsion technologies and intention to offer a portfolio of fuel efficient alternatives that use energy sources such as petroleum, bio-fuels, hydrogen and electricity, including the new Chevrolet Volt thus increasing fuel efficiency of GM vehicles with internal combustion engines (General Motors, 2012). This will be achieved through features such as cylinder deactivation, direct injection, variable valve timing, turbocharging with engine downsizing and six speed transmissions. GM expects for example the Chevrolet Cruze Eco to be capable of achieving an estimated 40 mpg on the highway with a traditional internal combustion engine. GM will expand their telematics and infotainment offerings and, as a result of the OnStar service and their partnerships with companies such as Google, are positioned to deliver safety, security, navigation and connectivity systems and features (General Motors, 2012).

GM Diversity Strategy

At GM to serve a diverse global market with unique segments they view diversity as a business imperative that should be leveraged on to produce cars that match the different demands in the Market. In their diversity Strategy they focus on five areas (General Motors, 2012); they have customers all over the world and so are dealerships distributed to ensure customer tastes are reflected in GM products (General Motors, 2012).

They also have an inclusive workplace environment of choice which allows employees to perform at their peak; including training of staff on diversity as a cultural and business imperative. Through the GM Foundation support to communities is given with an emphasis on diverse sectors; Health, Education, Human rights. Suppliers; through growth of diverse and competitive supply base are also thus included. Through its dealer development network whose mission is to provide a profitable dealer network across all brands that reflects the diversity of the American Market consistent with the US Government designation of the underrepresented groups by supporting: GM Women retail network whose purpose is to attract and develop women dealer. National Candidate Program which purposes to prepare women and minority potential candidates to become GM dealer owners and operators through training (General Motors, 2012)

Vertical integration

Vertical integration is the process through which a firm owns its upstream suppliers and its downstream buyers. This can have a significant impact on a business unit's position in its industry with respect to cost, differentiation and other strategic issues, the vertical scope of the firm is an important consideration in corporate strategy. Expansion of activities downstream is referred to as forward integration and expansion upstream is referred to as backward integration (Quick MBA, 2010).

GM expands its activities downstream. For the automotive industry, forward integration woul be into retail, repairs and servicing and this is exactly what GM is doing.GM enters into contracts with each authorized dealer agreeing to sell to the dealer one or more specified product lines at wholesale prices and granting the dealer the right to sell those vehicles to retail customers from an approved location. Their dealers often offer more than one GM brand at a single dealership in a number of their markets in order to enhance dealer profitability. Authorized dealers offer parts, accessories, service and repairs for GM vehicles in the product lines that they sell using GM parts and accessories. The dealers are authorized to service GM vehicles under their limited warranty program and those repairs are to be made only with GM parts. The dealers generally provide their customers access to credit or lease financing, vehicle insurance and extended service contracts provided by GM Financial, Ally Financial, Inc. (Ally Financial) and other financial institutions (United States Securities and Exchange Commission, 2011).

The quality of GM dealerships and their relationship with their dealers and distributors are critical to their success as dealers maintain the primary sales and service interface with the end consumer of their products. In addition to the terms of their contracts with their dealers they are regulated by various country and state franchise laws that may replace those contractual terms and impose specific regulatory requirements and standards for initiating dealer network changes, pursuing terminations for cause and other contractual matters (United States Securities and Exchange Commission, 2011).

Chapter 8; 8.6, 8.7

Sell GM vehicles globally by continuing to compete in the largest and fastest growing markets globally. They intend to do this by broadening GMNA product portfolio, launching thirteen new vehicles in GMNA across the four brands in 2011 and 2012, primarily in the growing car and crossover segments, where, in some cases, GM is under-represented, and an additional twenty nine new vehicles between 2013 and 2014. GM believes that it has achieved a more balanced portfolio in the U.S. market, where they maintained a sales volume mix of 36% from cars, 38% from trucks and 26% from crossovers in 2010 compared to 51% from trucks in 2006. COMPETITIVE DRIVERS

Refresh GME's vehicle portfolio to improve product quality and product perception in Europe, by the start of 2012, GM plans to have 80% of the Opel/Vauxhall carlines volume refreshed such that the model stylings are less than three years old. Four product launches were scheduled for 2011. As part of the planned rejuvenation of Chevrolet's portfolio, which increasingly supplements the Opel/Vauxhall brands throughout Europe, the entire Chevrolet lineup is to be moved to new global architectures (General Motors, 2012). COMPETITIVE DRIVERS

Increase sales in GMIO, particularly in China to execute growth strategies in countries where GM already holds strong positions, such as China, and to improve market share in other important markets, including South Korea, South Africa, Russia, India and the ASEAN region. GM aims to launch 70 new vehicles throughout GMIO through 2012 (General Motors, 2012).

To enhance and strengthen the GMIO product portfolio three strategies were to be employed: leveraging GM global architectures; pursuing local and regional solutions to meet specific market requirements; and expanding joint venture partner collaboration opportunities.

Increase sales in GMSA, particularly in Brazil, GM was to launch 40 new vehicles throughout GMSA through 2011. To strengthen GMSA product portfolio GM had three strategies: leverage on global architectures; pursuing local and regional solutions to meet specific market requirements; and expanding joint venture partner collaboration opportunities (General Motors, 2012). COST DRIVERS; CSD

Ensure competitive financing is available to dealers and customers by maintaining multiple financing programs and arrangements with third parties for the wholesale and retail customers to utilize when purchasing or leasing vehicles. Through long standing arrangements with Ally Financial and a variety of other worldwide, regional and local lenders, provide customers and dealers with access to financing alternatives. GM was to further expand the range of financing options available to its customers and dealers to help grow vehicle sales through two specific objectives: ensure certainty of availability of financing; and competitive and transparent pricing for financing, for dealers and customers. GM Financial was to offer increased availability of leasing and sub-prime financing for GM customers in the United States and Canada throughout economic cycles. Plans to use GM Financial to initiate targeted customer marketing initiatives to expand vehicle sales were also in the pipeline (General Motors, 2012).

Reduce breakeven levels through improved revenue realization and a competitive cost structure. In developed markets, GM was to improve its cost structure to become profitable at lower industry volumes. Capitalize on cost structure improvement and maintain reduced incentive levels in GMNA by sustaining the cost reduction and operating flexibility progress so far resulting from the North American restructuring. Current U.S. and Canadian hourly labour agreements provide the flexibility to utilize a lower tiered wage and benefit structure for new hires, part-time employees and temporary employees. GM was to increase vehicle profitability by maintaining competitive incentive levels with strengthened product portfolio and by actively managing production levels through monitoring of dealer inventory levels. The twelve months ended December 31, 2010 and based on GMNA's 2010 market share, GMNA's earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) would have achieved breakeven at GMNA wholesale volume of approximately 2.3 million vehicles, consistent with an annual U.S. industry sales volume of approximately 9.5 to 10.0 million vehicles (General Motors, 2012). COST DRIVERS; SE

Execute the Opel/Vauxhall restructuring plan. GM expected the Opel/Vauxhall restructuring plan to lower vehicle manufacturing costs. The plan included manufacturing rationalization, headcount reduction, labour cost concessions from the remaining workforce and selling, general and administrative efficiency initiatives. Specifically, GM has reached an agreement to reduce European manufacturing capacity by 20% through, among other things, the closing of Antwerp facility in Belgium and the rationalization of the powertrain operations in our Bochum and Kaiserslautern facilities in Germany. Additionally, GM had reached an agreement with the labour unions in Europe to reduce labour costs by Euro 265 million per year. The objective of the restructuring, along with the refreshed product portfolio pipeline, was to restore the profitability of the GME business.

Enhance manufacturing flexibility. Primarily produce vehicles in locations where they are sold and have significant manufacturing capacity in medium- and low-cost countries, intention being to maximize capacity utilization across the production footprint to meet demand without requiring significant additional capital investment. For example, GM was able to leverage the benefit of a global architecture and start initial production for the U.S. of the Buick Regal 11 months ahead of schedule by temporarily shifting production from North America to Rüsselsheim, Germany (General Motors, 2012).

Maintain a strong balance sheet. Given the business's high operating leverage and the cyclical nature of the Motor industry, GM was to minimize on financial leverage. Excess cash was to be used to repay debt and to make discretionary contributions to the U.S. pension plans. Based on this planned reduction in financial leverage and the anticipated benefits resulting from operating strategy described above, GM would aim to attain an investment grade credit rating over the long-term (General Motors, 2012).

Internationalization and Information Communication Strategy

General Motors GM seeks to leverage on ICT to increase operational efficiency while generating value through saved costs.To execute this strategy, GM embraced a globally unified business model that emphasized the deployment of highly standardized engineering and manufacturing platforms that could be easily implemented and supported in any market around the world. The global, standards-based operating model would accelerate GM's move into emerging markets and generate efficiencies and cost savings through the use of common infrastructure components and processes. Among key initiatives designed to support the new unified operating model, GM invested in information technologies to more tightly integrate its manufacturing plants across the globe, control costs, and accelerate the introduction of new communications and collaboration applications. Key to this strategy was the implementation of modern standards-based network architecture - called the Plant Floor Controls Network (PFCN) - at more than 150 GM manufacturing plants worldwide (Cisco, 2010).

Based on a single set of Cisco-based network designs and equipment, the PFCN solution replaced GM's aging and heavily customized legacy networks that were becoming increasingly unreliable, as well as difficult and expensive to maintain. The move to the PFCN solution enabled GM to standardize the design of each plant network and establish a single engineering team that monitors and troubleshoots network operations globally. The result: network downtime has dropped by about 70%, leading to fewer unplanned work stoppages on the plant floor. Furthermore, GM now needs two-thirds fewer network engineers and analysts to support the same number of plants (Cisco, 2010).

The standardized Cisco network design also helped GM rationalize and reduce its legacy inventory of network devices and spare parts, cutting inventory carrying costs by 70%. It also allowed GM to create cost-efficient "global applications" that can be rolled out to plants quickly, and to automate system-management tasks like upgrades and patches. As a result, GM now spends 30% less time managing plant software. According to an analysis by Mainstay Partners, GM's investment in the Cisco-based PFCN solution will generate a return on investment (ROI) of 166% (Cisco, 2010).

The full range of benefits is illustrated in Figure 1 and includes:

Figure 1

What?

Financial Consequence

$ Million

Labor Cost Saving as a result an efficient deployment of network Engineers

21.2

Labor cost saving from more efficient deployment of network operations analysts

53.9

one-off savings from faster network setups at each plant

16.4

Cost Saving from leaner inventory quantities

5.4

Reduced lost unit profit contribution from higher network uptime

76.4

Total PFCN additional benefits in the next five years (estimate)

173

(Cisco, 2010)

Describe the processes through which the strategy has been developed/formed based on your findings and knowledge/experience. (i.e., is it intended as a written document (as a plan), or emergent as a pattern of decision-making/activities/behaviours. Refer to Chapter 12).

Chapter 12

Evaluation of GM's intended strategy

As consequence of many years of bad strategic decisions and operational troubles GM US market share has fallen to 20 percent for the first time in decades (51 percent at the peak of the company dominance) and its sales outside the United States now almost equal its domestic sales. GM has become a bureaucratic organization with immense dimensions and difficult to manage. The innovation and customer focus orientation that once served as the pillar of the organization had blurred. For many years now, GM has been producing boring and low quality cars with lack of innovation and distinctiveness creating a total disconnection between customers' needs and its products (Vaccara, 2009).

GM core problems were: Deficient product development (including lack of innovation) and the difficulty to develop cars that appeal to the market had created a bad reputation for its brands and the company in general. Lack of customer focus orientation and the impossibility to listen to the market voice had been impeding GM to create customer value and therefore hurting its sales in large scale. Disproportioned increase in healthcare and benefits costs giving in to union demands and creating a program that paid workers even when plants were not running had created financial deficiencies and affected cash flows and operations. The increasing size of its divisional organizational structure due to bureaucracy and the difficulty to manage many brands across many markets around the world had developed into a major managerial problem for the company (Vaccara, 2009).

Emergent strategy

On 2nd June, 2009, General Motors declared itself bankrupt in a legal filing at a federal courthouse in downtown Manhattan, kicking off the biggest industrial insolvency in US history. According to GM's bankruptcy filing, the company had assets of $82.3 billion, and liabilities of $172.8 billion. That would make GM the fourth largest U.S. bankruptcy on record, according to Bankruptcydata.com, just behind the 2002 bankruptcy of telecom WorldCom (Cark, 2009).

GM used the trip into bankruptcy court to shed plants, dealerships, debt and other liabilities it could no longer afford. Emerging out of bankruptcy quickly was a "new GM," made up of the four brands that GM would keep in the U.S. market; Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick as well as many of its more successful overseas operations (Isidore, 2009).

Obama said the massive reorganization of GM would leave the US government holding 60% of the company's equity. But it was necessary to preserve an iconic symbol of American business and maintain a viable US auto industry (Cark, 2009).

Today's GM's business strategy is developed as a result of the failures of the Old GM and their determination not to repeat the same mistakes. Most of the current strategies are part of those imposed on the old GM when it borrowed money.

Evaluate innovation/entrepreneurship practices/strategies used by the organization. Refer Chapter 9.

Innovation and Entrepreneurship

GM's innovation is driven by market pull. Market pull reflects a view of innovation that goes beyond invention and sees the importance of actual use. At GM, managements are making an effort to establish a direct connection with customers and giving the impression that their voice is now important for the company. It now offers a "60 day satisfaction warranty." This strategy is reflected under the slogan: "If you don't love it we'll take it back.  GM is also producing some environmentally friendly vehicles. A more environmentally conscious population seem to be very interested and this strategy seems to work fine due to the rising cost of fuel. Therefore it is extremely necessary to address issues like availability of alternative fuels and revise current infrastructure to estimate feasibility of the strategy in the long run (Vaccara, 2009).

Open or closed innovation

Open innovation means that valuable ideas can come from inside or outside the company and can go to market from inside or outside the company as well (Chesbrough, 2003), while closed innovation is a traditional approach to innovation where organizations rely on their own internal resources; its laboratories and marketing departments (Johnson, Whittington, & Scholes, 2011). GM applies an open innovation framework.

GM gathers its data from customer clinics and marketing surveys and combine this information with formalized assessments of new technology. These analyses are used to guide vehicle and feature concept studies, which are critically reviewed to determine appropriate responses to emerging market and business opportunities. A response can be that no action is taken on a particular idea if they do not think it will yield true value for the customer. But more typically, the response leads to action, which is taken along one of two paths (Howell, 2000).

The first path is to "get it into the product now". This route is taken if the technology is ready and getting it into a product is just a matter of final development and vehicle integration. In this case, it is targeted for a production date and becomes part of the product plan. When a technology is not yet mature, it is the responsibility of the R&D Center to develop it to the point where it is ready for integration into a future product (Howell, 2000).

The intent of the innovation process is to ensure that a steady stream of product and technology options is developed on the basis of the company's sense of where the market is headed. These options are potential responses that GM can use to capitalize quickly on new opportunities. The process is designed to be dynamic, with new information and ideas moving continuously through the system. Each time the company goes through an innovation cycle, they gain knowledge and discover new ways to apply it to subsequent product and technology programs (Howell, 2000).

Innovators or Followers

The key choice of GM managers is to be leaders and not followers. The firm is trying to get its innovation out to the market and make it first than anybody else. GM wants to become a worldwide leader automaker providing total customer value through customer-driven service, innovation, technology and competitive operations. They want to re-invent the automobile industry focusing on protecting and contributing to a cleaner world. They want to become a good place to work, a place in which every employee feels proud of its responsibilities and performance with the company. A place in which, customers and suppliers are their top priority and communications with them are fluent in every possible contact point. A place in which, distributors are proud to become part of their family and feel confident of the quality and safety of their products. Finally, they must experiment with ideas to develop new designs and innovative products and launch them accordingly, to satisfy consumer taste and allow stockholders to realize a fair return on their investment (General Motors, 2011). 

Conclusion

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