After running GM’s Australian/Ocenia arm Holden, Mark Reuss was appointed to head up GM’s operations in North America in 2009. The division is the largest and most profitable within GM, bringing in more than enough to offset issues in other parts of the world, such as Europe and South America; for instance, GMNA made $7.2 billion in profit in 2011; Europe has been bringing home losses for several years now (although that’s currently being addressed) and South America posted a measly $83 million profit.
In his new position, Reuss was quick to dump long meetings and replace executives while shoehorning new products quicker through the pipeline, including the Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu as well as the Cadillac ATS and XTS. The first two vehicles have already been on sale while the two Caddys are currently making their market debut.
The Associated Press sat down in May to interview Reuss, 48, to discuss The General’s turnaround as well as its future. The following interview is edited for length and clarity.
GM’s market share dropped from around 20 percent in 2011 to 16.4 percent in March. Did that scare you?
No, Reuss says. The automaker took back a full point of market share in April. Reuss blamed the drop on the discontinuation of the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS, legacy models that were sold mainly to rental car companies. The automaker’s retail sales to individual buyers continue to climb, as do the prices people pay for its cars and trucks (average transaction prices are up significantly in 2012). He expects to earn market share as GM refreshes or renews 70 percent of its U.S. model lineup in the next 18 months, a move characterized by GM CEO Dan Akerson as the biggest product offensive in GM’s recent history.
Will pickup trucks and engines get smaller because of high gas prices?
It’s reasonable to think that businesses will purchase smaller trucks if they can do most of what a larger truck can do, while save on gas, Reuss says. GM plans to have efficient V8 engines in its next-generation Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups due out next year. Smaller displacement engines with turbochargers may be offered, especially in new versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups, he said.
Are you happy with GM’s marketing and will you keep the “Chevy Runs Deep” ad campaign?
The automaker’s marketing is working, Reuss says, but the company can always do better. He thinks the “Chevy Runs Deep” campaign, which highlights Chevrolet’s century of car building, is here to stay. “We get really good reaction to it. Is it forever? Nothing’s forever. But I think it’s done a good job for us.”
Will you succeed CEO Dan Akerson when he leaves?
“That’s honestly the last thing on my mind,” Reuss says, adding that it wouldn’t matter to him if he didn’t get the job. “If I can be around cars, touch cars and do the job I’m doing, I can’t ask for anything more.”
When is a new Volt due and when does the price drop? (Volt has a base price of just over $39,000 before national and local incentives)
The cost will drop with each model year as engineers make the car more efficient, Reuss says. (The Volt saw several efficiency improvements for the 2013 model year.) The battery could get smaller, and the engine and transmission parts will become lighter and less pricey. “I think the car just naturally comes down in price and becomes much more efficient year after year after year.”