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One day after the US government rejected GM’s turnaround plan, Mark LaNeve, the company’s vice president of sales, service, and marketing for North America, spoke with Eddie Alterman, editor-in-chief of Car and Driver magazine. The interview gives a direct glimpse into the company’s mindset as it goes back to the drawing board on its recovery.
For most of the discussion, LaNeve and Alterman talked about restoring consumer confidence and the future of GM brands. But in the final minutes of the 11-minute interview, the discussion turned toward fuel-efficiency and smaller cars. LaNeve said the company knows how to produce high-performance vehicles, but at this time emphasizing smaller efficient vehicles is “a better message to send to our key stakeholders, to our customers, and certainly to the government whose made that a requirement of our viability.”
Alterman asked: “How do you deal with a government that doesn’t have a solid energy or transportation policy? How do you design for a government that says build smaller cars, but we’re not going to step on the political third rail of a gas tax?”
“It’s a big challenge. I won’t deny that. If we’re going to really be focused on a clean environment and on CO2 emissions, on becoming energy independent—to me that’s the most important thing, where we’re not relying on Mideast oil so that to some degree our fossil fuel dependency whether from motor vehicles or other [sources] has to be fixed, and that’s not going to happen overnight obviously—it’s going to take industry and the government working together.
“There’s just no other way that it can happen. You’re going to have to have investment spending. You’re going to be out in front of where the consumer really wants to be for a certain period of time. We know already that they’re not willing to pay for two powertrains in a vehicle. They’re willing to pay for one, and they do the math on hybrid technology, does it pay back and what have you?
“But I believe the government will set up the right parameters around that. If you think about it, that could be the next era of job creation in the United States, is around energy efficiency, alternative fuels, battery technology, wind- or turbine-generated electricity. In the 90s, we had a real good economy under Bill Clinton, it was all about integrating IT and the Internet into mainstream business. That was the big job-generator.
“I really believe in the next decade, it’s going to be all around a cleaner environment, energy efficiency, and energy technology. We believe GM is a leader, and can be an even better leader—once we really get our company fixed—in that area. ”
Based on LaNeve’s response, does GM have a sufficient commitment toward fuel-efficient technologies and to consumers eager for cutting-edge green vehicles?