In an internal e-mail, GM Europe President Nick Reilly indicated that The General would continue to use the Vauxhall brand in the UK. That announcement should not have come as too much of a surprise, as the former Vauxhall General Operations Manager has close ties to the company. What were refreshingly different were the changes he outlined in The General’s European strategy. Full text of the five page document, which was received by tens of thousands of employees, can be found here.
First and foremost, Mr. Reilly rejected hiring an outside consultant to devise a mission statement, instead submitting an internally developed working vision statement:
To be a leading European Manufacturer of high quality, desirable automotive products, based on German Engineering, driven by a united team of professionals and respected around the world.
In identifying specific steps to achieve that vision, he first distinguished Vauxhalls and Opels, allotting the former for Brits and the latter for everyone else. In a departure from previous goals, ‘everyone else’ encompasses more than merely Europeans. If Opel products are to be “respected around the world,” the the impetus is on the company to “look for opportunities to sell Opel products outside Europe.”
Mr. Reilly, who also served as President of GM International Operations, has a unique perspective on the expansion. Acknowledging non-European sales as a historical weak point and noting that a strong Euro makes such exports even harder, he suggested that desirable products and a positive image will be the keys to growing exports. The products and image motif ran throughout the memo. While he emphasized superior products as more important, he conceded that GM’s image in Europe requires more work. It is from this theme that what will inevitably be the most quoted line from this directive emerges:
We have a working group putting into words and pictures the definition of the Opel/Vauxhall ‘DNA’ so that all our products, our advertising and our face to the outside world clearly come from the same home.
The motto Opel adopted last year, “Wir leben Autos,” or “We Live Cars,” while not set Vauxhall’s use in the UK, did successfully bridge the gap between the need to improve Opel’s image around the world and the company’s commitment to continued product excellence called for by Mr. Reilly’s message. Among the assets that facilitate such product excellence, Mr. Reilly isolated GM Europe’s technical capabilities, strong dealer network, the skills of employees, heritage, and the goodwill of outsiders. He went on to praise labor unions for providing a crucial check on abusive management, but called on unions to act responsibly and to recognize their shared interest in the success of the company. Also in the assets column was the strength of the company’s relationships with dealers, suppliers, governing bodies of all sorts, the media, and the consumer. Mr. Reilly was particularly adamant about maintaining relations with customers, not just because they keep the company in business, but they provide the crucial recommendations that get customers into showrooms.
In predicting the challenges of 2010, the newly-appointed European head emphasized cost-cutting, particularly in reducing bureaucratic inefficiencies. In so doing, he identified The General’s most valued asset, employees:
Nobody knows better how to assemble a quality car efficiently than the person on the assembly line. Nobody knows better what the customer is really experiencing than our dealers.
Finally, Mr. Reilly presented some thoughtful comments on Opel/Vauxhall’s relationship with General Motors North America. He noted that there is certainly a need for the European branch to set itself apart from North American operations in order to better cater to different needs and preferences in its respective location, but that to blame current problems on that relationship demonstrates a ‘weak victim mentality’ and diminishes the European company’s responsibility. Mr. Reilly was particularly gracious in delineating those benefits his division reaps from being a member of the GM family, including technology, platforms, volume buying power, well-tested production processes, and even an information technology infrastructure. He went on to note that Opel/Vauxhall’s continued viability was possible in recent lean times only because of GM’s financial support. The symbiotic characterization of the relationship concludes with:
We are better for being part of GM and GM is better for having Opel/Vauxhall.
May the best man win. Or sell boat loads of vehicles annually in Europe.[Source: Campaign Live]