Like every other automaker, General Motors was badly hit by the business-related effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Total U.S. sales across all four of its brands sold in its home market – Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC – dropped by nearly 12 percent, despite remarkably strong performance by the company’s most popular vehicles – the Chevy Silverado and its corporate cousin, the GMC Sierra.
If anything, it’s a surprise that the decline wasn’t even more severe. Factories were shut down for two months or, in some cases, even more. In addition, production did not immediately return to prior levels. Furthermore, restrictions made it more difficult for customers to visit dealerships. In these circumstances, a 12 percent downturn was not exactly a bad result.
However, the reduction in sales exposed three particularly problematic areas of GM’s business even more than before. As will become clear, not all of them have reached optimal levels, but at least the company has made a start. We’ll deal with them in chronological order of the journey from factory to customer.
First GM introduced what it refers to as focused ordering. In this system, GM advises its dealers to place orders for both the top-selling and the fastest-turning vehicles, while discouraging them from ordering production that’s less popular or remains on dealer lots for a long time before being sold.
This applies not only to model ranges but to specific trim levels or body styles within those ranges. For example, GM initially advised dealers to order first the 2020 GMC Sierra HD, then the 2020 GMC Sierra 1500, and finally the 2021 Chevy Silverado HD only in Crew Cab form. Later in the year, production of those trucks in any other body style was replaced with Crew Cab production.
It is quite understandable that GM customers, including GM Authority readers, should be unhappy about not being able to order the vehicle they want if it happens to be less popular than others. From GM’s point of view, however, this is simply a way to protect itself during a time of crisis.
2. Better Insights Into Vehicle Order Status
The second issue requiring attention was the tracking of vehicles as they made their way from the plants where they were built to the dealer lots where they would be sold. GM Authority identified this as a major problem in March of last year. GM subsequently introduced a new tool called VINVIEW, which uses logistics data in conjunction with a vehicle’s OnStar module to reveal its current location and estimated time of arrival.
VINVIEW is available only to dealers at present, and some have commented that VINVIEW does not yet appear to be working entirely as it should, but it is an improvement over the previous system and should become more efficient as time goes on.
3. Logistics Improvements
Finally, as spokesperson Megan Soule recently explained to GM Authority executive editor, Alex Luft, GM has made an investment in its logistics process by expanding the fleet of Class 8 trucks (those with a gross vehicle weight rating, or GVWR, of over 33,000 pounds).
These are the trucks used to transport vehicles from factories and distribution centers to dealerships, cutting the time between production and sale, and allowing the automaker to ensure it is in good shape as it enters a post-pandemic world.