GM executives will tell you the automaker is not the same entity it was even three years ago. Following the ignition switch recall fallout, the company began taking major steps to transform its corporate culture for the better without looking back.
GM product chief, Mark Reuss, knows there are skeptics, but he is determined to prove them wrong.
Reuss spoke with Automotive News regarding GM’s ongoing transformation and touched on why the skepticism has driven all of GM to become more disciplined and forward thinking.
“That is incredible motivation to prove people wrong, for me, and I know it is for Mary [Barra, GM CEO],” Reuss said.
Reuss traced his timeline with the company, which began in the 1980s along with now GM CEO, Mary Barra. He goes on to say the only thing he never saw from GM was a time when the automaker was truly on top of the world.
“We have seen it all,” Reuss said last week at the Automotive News World Congress. “The only thing we hadn’t really seen was a period of time when the company really, really did well, because that was a little before our time.”
The dynamic which exists between Barra and Reuss is pretty spectacular, as Reuss recalled a moment between the two in 2009. Reuss had recently returned from GM Holden and Barra was leading human resources.
“I can remember standing with her in a parking lot in some of the darkest days. She said to me, “If you are ever leaving this, you must tell me before you do. We had a pact,'” he stated.
“I said, “I am not, because I know what this company can be,'” Reuss said. “And she said, “Mark, I know the people in this company can win, and we have to enable the people in this company to win.'”
The major turning point indeed became the ignition switch recall, which has been linked to 124 deaths and cost GM billions of dollars in settlements and legal penalties.
“We used that to really change the way the company behaved, and also to change what was OK and wasn’t OK, and what we wanted to be,” said Reuss. “It was an unbelievably painful process.”
Since then, GM initiated the “Speak Up for Safety” program internally, which encourages workers to notify superiors of potential quality or safety issues. Reuss has previously said each initiative is a step towards GM becoming a zero defects automaker.