GM CEO Mary Barra Gives An Interview At CityLab Detroit6
The first car that General Motors CEO Mary Barra ever became enamored with, as a ten-year-old girl living outside of Detroit, Michigan, was a late-1960s Chevrolet Camaro convertible driven by her cousin.
Even today, her family keeps a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, and her husband and her son are restoring a 1971 Pontiac Trans Am. At the same time, the company that she leads is in many ways leading the pack with regard to autonomous driving technology, developing a fully self-driving production car that will be pressed into service in rideshare and ride-hailing fleets as early as next year.
This dichotomy was on full display in an interview that Mary Barra gave to Atlantic Media Chairman David Bradley at CityLab Detroit this week. Shortly after describing the pair of classic cars she and her family have in their garage at the moment, Ms. Barra launched into an explanation of why she’s helping lead GM into the bold new frontier of autonomous vehicles.
“The way we’re driven is to look and say: ‘How do we remove pain points, and make it easier for everyone to move?’,” she told Bradley in front of the CityLab crowd. “It costs a lot to own a car, and it’s an asset that on average, in the United States, most people only use six percent of the time.”
Besides expense, Ms. Barra cited the difficulty and expense of parking – especially in a dense urban center like New York City – as another crucial pain point, along with the tedium of traffic, and the excessive space taken up by parking infrastructure. In the U.S. today, there are three non-residential parking spaces per car on the road, she says. That’s a lot of wasted real estate.
Each of these “customer pain points” helps to explain why ridesharing has become such a promising business, Mary Barra says – even if rideshare only accounts for a tenth of a percent of miles traveled in the U.S. One of her company’s goals with regard to autonomous vehicles, she says, is to grow that percentage by making ridesharing cheaper, safer, and more green with self-driving technology – and removing crucial pain points in the process.
It’s a spiel that we’ve heard in more-or-less the same terms multiple times before, but one that nonetheless does a good job of outlining why General Motors feels there’s progress to be made by putting autonomous vehicles on the road en masse. It’s also one that seems to stand in stark contradiction to a classic car-loving CEO who lives and breathes GM, but it seems that Ms. Barra – much like GM itself – has had to adopt a sort of split personality, with automotive enthusiasm on the one hand, and safe, eco-conscious autonomy on the other.
For the latest GM autonomous driving news, stay tuned to GM Authority.
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Nothing like shooting yourself in the foot. As a CEO Barra should tout the benefits of car ownership and encourage more of it.
I LOVE cars and trucks! I love driving! I’m fine with electric propulsion or HFC but who is behind this autonomy crap? What will become of the auto industry? What about the freedom to move about on your on? Autopilot and Supercruise? Yeah, ok, I get it. But a “pod” that I have to summon? WTF??? The direction that Ms. Berra, the Board of Directors, whoever that is behind this has totally turned their backs on today’s vehicle buyer. Are German car companies the only ones left that have a passion for driving? Funny in the story above Ms Berra talks about here classic muscle cars but does not mention a modern Camaro or Corvette, has she lost interest in modern cars and trucks and now only carries a torch for “pods”? Is this GM saying “screw you” to millions of loyal customers down through the years and telling us we’ll buy what they want us to buy rather than what we want?
I think the best thing to happen for GM is for their obsession with AVs to blow up in their face. Perhaps then they can focus on being leaders in cars and trucks again. Heck, Ram is nipping on Silverado’s heels and FCA declared an all-out attack on your bread and butter vehicles and it does not even seem to phase Barra and Co.
GM failed in the past by not being forward thinking and on,y being worried about the present.
The reality is cars and trucks are not going to get any cheaper. The Days of the $7999 S10 are long gone.
The increase in material and labor cost will onl6 drive prices up and if odds are wages will never keep up.
In the past nearly everyone could afford a new car. Even high school kids could buy a. Or Vette working at a Gas Station with enough hours.
Automakers need to find new ways for people to afford for transportation. They also need to find other ways to earn income.
While autonomy may be years off or may not happen the things learned will be applied to cars and much of what GM develops can be sold to other companies not unlike the partnership with Honda now.
Funny but all those here are not posting on the thread where GM has earned over $2.5 billion this quarter.
GM is finding its way to being an advance company and efficient company and as time goes on the may be one of the few still standing.
One needs to look big picture and beyond the petty the center screen is not big enough or Cruze does not offer a SS model.
Well Scott, let’s not forget the $5000 Mazda trucks of the early 80s. As for all of you nay sayers, I say getta life! I think Mary would make a great US president, but would not wish that on such a nice lady. She reminds me of my wife, a successful wife, mother and driven career woman who is as ethical as she is competent in her field. I do hope GM releases a BEV AWD CUV soon than will be parked next to our Volt in the garage. It’s been such a great car for 80+K miles that my wife would send me to the dog house if we traded it. Keep it up Mary, you are the right person at the right time for GM.
And as an ex racer I must say that I am not too thrilled about the AV thing either but it does make some sense for the insane metro commutes that people endure daily. Not sure how it will play out when someone from the rural area – like me – drives to the “big city” and has to deal with all the robocar backmarkers. Maybe I will be tulip fertilizer by then, anyway>
Remember this: nice or not, very few if any CEOs don’t make decisions that either directly or indirectly benefit them personally. Unfortunately, MS Barra at time comes across as a talking head with the same lines that seem to be written by a PR agent. I think the mark of a truly great leader is one like the late, great Sergio Marchione. Someone that can make profits by building revenue and market share as opposed to one that makes money by cost cutting on top of cost cutting.