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General Motors Corp. turned 100 on Tuesday (Sept. 16), but in an hour-long program broadcast live on a website, executives from Detroit and around the world spent more time emphasizing GM’s future in a global economy rather than dwelling on the past.
“We, for sure, have an awesome history, a tremendous heritage,” said GM Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner, who paid tribute to GM’s founders and early leaders and quickly moved on. “We are more than a 100-year-old company. We are a company that is ready to lead for 100 years to come.”
The Detroit Free Press reported that GM’s centennial program, called GMnext, began with short presentations from Germany, Russia, China, Korea, Canada, Mexico, Australia and South Africa – each emphasizing the company’s global growth and diversity, rather than market share and the bottom-line losses the company has dealt with in the United States in recent years.
The presentation also featured celebrities from around the world, such as Canadian Olympic women’s ice hockey captain Cassie Campbell, Australian race car driver Garth Tander and Mexican rock band Maná.
Fritz Henderson, GM’s president and COO, began his presentation by acknowledging that GM’s sales declined 16% in North America from 1997 to 2007, to 4.5 million vehicles annually, while industry sales increased 11%, to 20 million vehicles annually.
“This is where the battle will be won in the future,” Henderson said.
GM plans to win by introducing new vehicles, especially smaller vehicles to appeal to fuel-conscious consumers, Henderson said. Eighteen of the next 19 vehicles GM plans to introduce are either cars or crossovers.
Henderson did not dwell on uncomfortable numbers, such as GM’s market share decline in North America or the $15.5-billion, second-quarter loss that the company recently reported.
Instead, he clicked on a video monitor displaying the globe and pulled up sales numbers from other regions in the world where GM is thriving.
Overall, between 1997 and 2007, GM’s sales volume increased 10%, to 9.4 million vehicles. That lags global industry growth, which increased 32% from 1997 to 2007, to 71 million vehicles.
But with many new vehicles under development and explosive growth from Russia to South Africa, Henderson is optimistic.
“We see tremendous growth opportunities for our next 10 and 100 years,” he said.