General Motors CEO Mary Barra spoke to the J.D. Power/NADA Automotive Forum prior to the opening of press days at the New York International Auto Show on Tuesday. The lifelong GM employee took the opportunity to address the company’s recent recall crisis, but also touched upon some positive news which may have been overshadowed by the intense media coverage of the recall.
Barra notes that sales of GM’s full-size SUVs were up 62 percent last month, while GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado deliveries grew by 23 percent and 14 percent, respectively. Sales of Chevrolet passenger cars are up 10 percent, with Impala sales up 100 percent. Barra says GM’s overall U.S. retail sales were up 7 percent in March, outpacing the rest of the industry. More importantly, the CEO said average transaction prices were up to a record high of about $34,000 per unit, an increase of $2,000 from February, and more than $3,800 from last year.
Barra also touches upon the company’s recent success in China, where it has experienced record sales so far in 2014, and its small signs of a rebound in Europe before delving into points about the recall. The full transcript of her remarks, provided by GM, are below.
Thank you, Peter [Welch], for that kind introduction.
I appreciate this opportunity more than you know. It is great to be in front of an automotive audience… and it will be even better this evening at the Chevy press event.
After all, I am here today… for that matter, most of us are here today… because we love cars and have the privilege to work in the auto business.
And as events such as the New York Auto Show remind us, there is nothing else like it.
Frankly, at GM, our passion for this business is driving us to make the best cars, trucks, and crossovers in memory.
It also drives us to take the very best care of our customers.
And it drives us to make our company better, wherever we can.
I’m going to talk about that in a moment. But before I give you a progress report on our recall situation… I want to provide an update.
I think it’s fair to say that much of the progress we have made in the last two months has been overshadowed by the intensity of the recall coverage – but in fact there has been a lot of good news to report.
In North America, this includes the critical launches of our heavy-duty pickups and full-size SUVs. Incidentally, year-over-year sales of our full-size SUVs were up 62 percent last month, with availability of the all-new 2015 models building per plan.
Overall, our U.S. retail sales were up 7 percent in March, outpacing the industry.
Importantly, our average transaction prices set a new record of about $34,000 per unit. That was up about $2,000 from February, and more than $3,800 from last year. This means we are attacking the market with the kind of discipline that GM was not previously known for.
Deliveries of the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado, the 2014 North American Truck of the Year, were up 23 percent and 14 percent, respectively.
Meanwhile, deliveries of Chevrolet passenger cars were up 10 percent. The new Impala was up 100 percent.
In China, we had record sales in March and the first quarter.
This is especially encouraging because we expect stronger industry sales in China later this year when we’ll launch two all-new vehicles into the market – the Chevrolet Trax Urban SUV and the Cadillac CTS.
There are bright spots in Europe. In Germany, we continue to see signs of a rebound. Industry volume was up 5.8 percent in March versus a year ago and we outperformed the market with a 10.7 percent increase.
And in Brazil, our Joinville engine plant achieved LEED certification – the only plant in the region to capture this honor.
Back in the US, here’s a great indication of how strong our brands and dealers are performing. Last week, J.D. Power released its 2014 U.S. Customer Service Index. This measures customer satisfaction with dealer service.
All four of our U.S. brands – Cadillac, GMC, Buick and Chevrolet – were ranked in the top 5.
In luxury brands, Cadillac was #1. In mass-market brands, Buick was #1, GMC #3, and Chevrolet #5. Congratulations to our great GM dealers for this outstanding performance!
Also last week, both the 2014 Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain earned “Top Safety Pick Plus” ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. They were the only two midsize SUVs to achieve the Institute’s highest safety rating. They join the 2014 Chevy Malibu in earning this prestigious designation.
And speaking of Chevrolet… I hope you will join me, Mark Reuss, Alan Batey, and the rest of the GM team at the Chevrolet press conference this evening.
We will unveil the first-ever supercar convertible from Chevrolet, the 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible… and the globally successful Chevrolet Trax Urban SUV, which we are very excited to bring to the U.S.
This is going to keep Chevrolet on a roll!
After wrapping up last year with record global sales of nearly 5 million vehicles, Chevy kicked off 2014 by claiming both the North American Car and Truck of the Year with the Corvette Stingray and Silverado pickup.
Chevy has the strongest lineup in its history – from Spark to Impala… and starting this fall, we will be offering three trucks in North America – midsize, full-size, and heavy duty.
By the end of next year, 95 percent of Chevrolet’s U.S. portfolio will be less than four years old.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports named Impala and Silverado the best sedan and truck you can buy.
And earlier this year, we announced that Chevrolet will be the first brand to offer 4G LTE on a broad line of vehicles.
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So, with that as perspective on what’s happening at GM in general… let me turn now to the subject of our ignition switch recall.
Last week, we took several new actions related to customer safety:
We announced we will replace ignition lock cylinders in the 2.6 million vehicles already recalled to repair ignition switches.
We placed two engineers involved in the recall situation on paid leave as we seek the truth about what happened.
We announced that we are accelerating the certification of our engineers as Design for Six Sigma black belts. To date, about 15,000 GM engineers have been certified; we will now require all GM engineers to be certified as black belts by the end of 2015.
We announced a “Speak Up for Safety” program to recognize employees for ideas that make our vehicles and customers safer.
And most importantly, parts are arriving at dealers, trained technicians are working and we are in the process of repairing cars.
These actions build on the well-documented steps we’ve taken over the last several weeks to restore trust in GM. And of course that includes the actions of our dealers.
I’m talking about dealers like Cargill Chevrolet in Putnam, Connecticut, which added 20 additional loaner cars to its fleet and called the owner of every single recalled vehicle in their area – whether Cargill had sold or serviced it, whether it was new or used. They even delivered a loaner car to one customer who lives more than 50 miles from the dealership.
Or Doan Chevrolet, near Rochester, N.Y., which has worked to ensure that every single employee – whether they work in sales, service, or support – is fully informed about the recalls. When a customer speaks to the dealership – in person or on the phone – he or she is assured of accurate and up-to-date information.
These are just a few examples of the commitment our dealers are showing. So, thanks to all the GM dealers who are living our values and putting the customer first in everything they do.
All of us understand what is at stake here.
At GM, our first value is very clear: Customers are our Compass. But let’s face it – it’s easy to come up with a list of values. What’s difficult is showing they are more than words on paper.
Our actions in recent weeks show we at GM are committed to living our values. I am committed to seeing it through.
Today, I would like to announce the creation of a new Global Product Integrity organization within our Global Product Development function. This new organization will build on the formula and specific actions we have taken in recent years to lead the industry in vehicle dynamics. We will mirror this approach to focus on safety performance. Our goal is to ensure the highest levels of execution consistently across all our vehicles. The new organization will report directly to Mark Reuss, who leads Global Product Development, and include Jeff Boyer’s new safety organization.
This new way of developing vehicles will provide the highest levels of safety, quality, and customer service… and ensure that a situation like the ignition-switch recall doesn’t happen again.
Finally, I’d like to talk about culture.
In the last five years, we have made important and meaningful progress at GM in changing the company’s culture.
Our focus is no longer on survival. We are more focused on quality and doing what is right for the customer than at any time in my 33 years with the company.
A prime focus right now for me and a core group of people is on taking care of the customers involved in the ignition switch recall and getting their cars fixed as soon as possible.
Every interaction with our customers, whether in sales or service, is a part of building a long-term relationship. That’s the mindset we’re using to approach this situation – and I’m proud of the way the GM team has responded.
We know the world is watching and will judge us by our actions.
I held a town hall with employees last week, as did Mark. From that experience and many others, I am confident that the team will learn from this recall, and that GM will be a better company for it.
At the same time, the rest of the GM team around the world is focused on building the great momentum that we established in recent years on the product front.
The big picture is clear – deliver great products with the highest levels of safety, quality, and durability to all our customers around the world.
I’m proud our team is delivering on that front, and I know we will continue to do so.
That’s my pledge to our customers, dealers, suppliers and employees as we work to make GM the best that it can be.