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GE backs off plan to buy 25,000 EVs

Corporate fleet decisions underscore debate about alternative fuel vehicles


Automotive News
By Tim Catts
January 7, 2013

NEW YORK (Bloomberg) -- General Electric Co.'s commitment to buy 25,000 electric autos, promoted as the largest ever when it was announced more than two years ago, is taking a detour.

The obstacle: Customers of GE's corporate fleet-services unit wanted more options, said Deb Frodl, the division's chief strategy officer. So GE has included natural gas-powered pickups and propane-fueled vehicles among about 11,000 autos -- mostly plug-in hybrids and electric cars -- already acquired from makers including Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co.

The shift at GE, whose 2010 pledge was hailed as a catalyst for bulk buying of electric vehicles, shows how businesses are struggling to balance greater fuel efficiency and reduced emissions against higher sticker prices, limited range and lingering doubts about still-infant technology.

"Many companies say they want to think about what their reliance on oil is, but there's a disconnect we've been tracking for a couple of years now" between chief executive officers' goals and their purchasing managers' decisions, said Scott Sarazen, global cleantech practice leader at Ernst & Young.

GE is a large purchaser of fleet vehicles -- it owns 30,000 for its own employees and manages about 1.4 million for lease customers -- and its very name and place in U.S. history made its electric-autos promise particularly notable. The plan's new scope underscores the competition those vehicles face from alternative fuels as well as traditional gasoline engines.

Volt selection

GE said in November 2010 the Chevrolet Volt would be among 12,000 GM electric vehicles bought by 2015. To meet that target, GM will have to offer new models in the coming years, Frodl said in an interview. The Volt's battery fire days after a crash test wasn't behind the decision to widen GE's approach to include more alternative-fuel autos, Frodl said.

"It's the demand of our customers," she said. "There are so many technologies out there and our customers need a variety of technologies in their fleet today, not just one. We're not picking winners and losers."

CEO Jeffrey Immelt unveiled GE's car-buying plans, with the Volt the only model cited by name, at about the same time the car reached consumers. The wheels on the world's first so-called extended-range hybrid are turned by an electric motor drawing current from a battery that can be recharged at an outlet or on- the-go with a generator running off a gasoline engine.

Retail sales of the four-door sedan ran so slowly to start 2012 that GM cut its global delivery goal by as much as 42 percent, to 35,000. U.S. sales totaled 23,461 in 2012 compared with 7,671 deliveries in 2011.

Fleet value

While fleet deals are discounted, they are profitable for automakers. Those sales also may help speed consumer acceptance of the vehicles, said Alan Baum, principal of industry researcher Baum & Associates in West Bloomfield, Mich.

Employees satisfied with their cars are likely to tell friends and family about their experiences, providing a marketing boost, Baum said in a telephone interview.

Companies bought about 8,500 plug-in hybrid autos such as the Volt in 2012 and 18,000 gasoline-electric hybrids like the Prius, said Dave Hurst, an analyst at Pike Research in suburban Detroit. That pales in comparison with the roughly 2.7 million vehicles purchased for fleets in 2012, he said.

"Prices have to come down," Hurst said by phone. "We're seeing the same thing on the fleet side as we're seeing with retail. When you start looking at the total cost of ownership, the plug-in hybrids are still more expensive than a battery- electric vehicle or one with a small gasoline engine."

List prices

GM's suggested retail price for the Volt is $39,145, according to Chevrolet's Web site, and a 2012 McKinsey & Co. study estimated that the battery itself costs about $8,000. Nissan Motor Co.'s battery-powered Leaf lists for $35,200, while Toyota Motor Corp.'s plug-in Prius retails for $32,000, compared with $24,200 for the hybrid's base model.

Diversifying GE's program with vehicles burning natural gas makes sense with the price of that fuel at $3.29 per million British thermal units on Jan. 4, about 76 percent less than the July 2008 record of $13.58, Ernst & Young's Sarazen said.

"You can't have this conversation without talking about the economics of natural gas," he said in a phone interview. "Compared to a battery pack when the fuel is this cheap, it definitely impacts choices."

GE is testing 300 Ford F-250 medium-duty pickups that use compressed natural gas, Frodl said. It's also buying 2,000 of the automaker's plug-in C-Max Energi wagon, which lists for $32,950, to complement the 3,000 Volts it has ordered. GE has acquired an additional 6,000 autos, mostly plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles, for leasing customers, a spokeswoman, Lindsay Lorraine, said in an e-mail.

Charging stations

Ford agreed to market GE's electric-car charging stations and natural gas fueling infrastructure to commercial customers as part of the agreement, according to a Nov. 20 GE statement. GE signed a two-year research agreement with Nissan to study integrating electric vehicles into the power grid and their impact on energy demand.

GE envisions its 25,000 electric and alternative-fuel vehicles flowing through two channels: 10,000 would be spread among its 65,000 fleet customers, and the rest would go to help the company replace half its of its own 30,000 corporate autos.

GE employees driving its fleet vehicles average about 100 miles (161 kilometers) a day, said Frodl, the company executive. While that's within the reach of the Volt and C-Max, it's beyond the range of the Leaf, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says averages 73 miles on a charge.

Driving range

The Volt's range is 380 miles, including 38 miles in electric-only mode, while the C-Max averages 620 miles, with 21 miles in electric mode, according to the EPA.

Wider acceptance of such vehicles may also expand the market for GE's charging equipment, Baum said. That may help boost retail sales by easing consumers' concern that they risk exhausting an electric car's battery while on the road, he said.

"If it somehow affects the density of charging stations and get into the psyche of the buyer who's kind of on the fence, but suffering from a touch of range anxiety, then it can help on a broader level," Baum said.

Most of GE's C-Maxes will be deployed in its fleet by February, Frodl said. GE is conducting pilot programs with about 20 of its fleet-services customers testing handfuls of Volts, including utility companies, food and beverage manufacturers and pharmaceutical firms, Frodl said. She declined to name participants, citing non-disclosure agreements.

A "vehicle innovation center" in Minneapolis serves as a hub for demonstrating the vehicles for potential users, she said.

"We're delighted now that more automotive manufacturers come to market with new products for us to deploy," Frodl said. "We've always globally multi-sourced the fleet. It was never the intention to be with just one automotive manufacturer."


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Oregon considering per-mile road use tax on electric car owners

Following suite with Washington State, Oregon's Legislature is due to consider a bill to change gasoline taxes and to charge a per-mile fee on drivers of efficient vehicles, like electric cars.

2012 Chevy Volt

Joining Washington State, Oregon is also considering a road usage tax on electric car owners, according to a report published Wednesday by the Statesman Journal. However, where Washington State is imposing a flat fee per year on electric car owners, the proposal being considered in Oregon is a per-mile tax.

To reiterate, the highways cost money to build and maintain. Traditionally, in the U.S., that money comes from the "Gasoline Tax" paid at the pump by drivers. It is a transparent way to anonymously collect money in amounts directly related to the usage of each vehicle. It's probably a bad choices of phrases to call this a "Gasoline Tax" because the purpose is to cause drivers to pay road usage fees. Countries and states around the world have had a variety of methods for collecting road usage fees, with some countries collecting per-vehicle taxes rather than a tax at the gasoline pump. Taxes collected at the gasoline pump are fair and anonymous, but only so long as vehicles are fueled at gasoline pumps. Of course, that is not where electric cars are fueled, and therefore electric car owners currently are getting away with using the roads without paying any kind of road use fee or tax.


The Revenue committee in the Oregon Legislature is slated to consider a bill in 2013 to change this tax system for collecting gasoline and road usage taxes. Oregon has long been a leading state in adopting fuel efficient vehicles, including electric vehicles. In 2001 the Legislature formed a Road User Fee Task Force chartered with finding a revenue system to offset a drop in gasoline tax revenue from those fuel efficient vehicles.

According to the Statesman Journal report, Oregon has had at least two pilot projects to test road user fee collection on a per-mile basis. In the latest pilot, 50 participants were paying a couple cents per mile and received a credit for any gas taxes paid at the fuel pump. They reported miles driven either with a smart phone application or a GPS device. Participants could also pay a flat fee. The variety of choices available was meant to get insight into which plan would be more attractive to electric car owners.

Among the concerns is whether to track miles driven on private roads, or miles driven outside Oregon, or for the State Government to have a precise record of every trip taken by every driver. That is, the governments who operate the road system do need to collect user fees, but what is the fairest method of doing so, that doesn't raise big-brother concerns along the way.

Electric vehicle advocates are opposed to imposing these taxes at this time. Because the number of electric vehicles in operation is currently small, the revenue collected may not be enough to even pay for the system that collects the revenue, much less make any contribution to the transportation fund. It also sends a mixed signal to the marketplace, because on the one hand governments are offering tax incentives to buy electric cars, and on the other hand are looking at imposing special taxes on electric car owners. However, that may be a testament to how transparent the gasoline tax system is, that gasoline car owners tend to not notice they're paying a tax with every refill.

Eventually electric vehicle owners will have to pay their fair share of road usage fees. The questions are, when, how much, and how it will be collected.


More Automotive News at


Wednesday, 26 December 2012 18:25

GM's Strange Moves in Europe Continue

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GM's Strange Moves in Europe Continue

General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) efforts to fix its long-troubled European operation have attracted significant attention from investors over the last year. That's no surprise: GM's German subsidiary Opel has lost billions over the last decade, and stopping those losses has been a big priority for CEO Dan Akerson since he first announced an overhaul of Opel's board in November of 2011.

So far, though, reviews on those efforts are mixed. A parts-sharing alliance with deeply troubled French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen (NASDAQOTH: PEUGY  ) raised eyebrows, as did management turmoil that resulted in the ouster of GM's respected Euro chief. Investors who have hoped for a decisive plan to fix Opel -- like the one Ford (NYSE: F  ) announced for its own troubled European operation in October -- have so far been disappointed.

GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky insisted not long ago that the incremental changes made so far were working and that GM Europe was on course to break even by mid-decade. He may well be right. But the latest news from Europe doesn't inspire confidence.

An ever-evolving and mysterious French alliance
GM's alliance with Peugeot has been a head scratcher since February
, when GM first announced that it would take a 7% stake in the cash-burning French automaker. Originally announced as a parts-sharing alliance, the arrangement later expanded to include plans to jointly develop and produce several new models.

It's been clear from the start what Peugeot gets out of this arrangement: a lifeline. The company has been hammered by the rough European auto market, where sales are hovering near a 20-year low. But for GM, which already has massive economies of scale thanks to its vast worldwide footprint, the benefits were less clear. Was a deeper plan being set in motion?

Back in October, rumors of an even more elaborate arrangement suggested that might be the case. Some, including your humble Fool, speculated that Opel and Peugeot would be merged into a new entity, a move that would take the German company's massive losses off of GM's corporate books. That had the potential to be a really smart move from GM's perspective, albeit one that wouldn't directly address the chronic weakness in Opel's (or Peugeot's) business.

But it wasn't to be, as GM suspended talks a few weeks later amid concerns about Peugeot's (scary) financial condition. Politics was also a concern, as both the French and German governments were expected to move to protect jobs that would be at risk in a merger. Peugeot has since said that a merger with Opel has been ruled out.

Meanwhile, though, GM's plans to produce several models with Peugeot appear to be moving forward. Last week, the companies announced that they had signed agreements on previously announced plans to jointly develop small cars and minivans, but had scrapped plans for a joint mid-sized sedan program. Plans are also under way to co-develop new small-car gasoline engines, they said.

None of that is necessarily bad news. But it'll be years before these plans help Opel's bottom line. Meanwhile, moves to shore up Opel in the short-term -- and perhaps, to prepare for a possible bankruptcy -- continue to unfold.

Could Opel be preparing to go bust?
Earlier in December, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper reported that Opel had sold six of its European facilities to GM in exchange for a two-year extension on a $3.3 billion loan that was originally due in 2014. (GM had no comment on the story.)

On the one hand, it's a move that makes some sense if Opel's management really does expect a business recovery by mid-decade. On the other hand, it's a move that makes a lot of sense if GM is planning to push Opel into liquidation: The facilities sold to GM include some of Opel's best plants, and specifically don't include those that have been targeted for potential closure.

At least one of the latter is now all but certain to be closed. Earlier in December, Opel's interim chief Thomas Sedran told workers at the company's plant in Bochum, Germany, that the company's management saw no alternative to closing the factory in 2016, a move likely to eliminate some 3,000 jobs. If it happens, it'll be the first closing of a German auto factory in decades.

The upshot: The saga continues
GM's European operation -- which consists mostly of Opel -- lost $478 million in the third quarter alone, and a similar loss is widely expected when GM reports fourth-quarter earnings early next year.

That's heavy bleeding, and it needs to be stopped -- not least because it's probably weighing heavily on GM's share price. A clear announcement of a plan to deal with Opel would likely do wonders for GM's stock, but the politics surrounding the situation -- Opel's powerful unions and the German and French governments, for starters -- make it likely that GM's real plan for Opel will remain a mystery for a while longer.

GM's stock has surged in recent days in the wake of the announcement that the government would sell its stake. But problems like Europe continue to weigh on the General's shares, leading many to wonder whether GM is still a buy at current prices. 

Always on the hunt for the truth:


Monday, 24 December 2012 18:12

How GM lost an Oklahoma dealer

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How GM lost an Oklahoma dealer

Lodge styling at store isn't OK with Chevrolet

Because the building didn’t meet facilities standards, quarterly GM payments of $250,000 were stopped.

By David Barkholz
Automotive News
December 24, 2012 - 12:01 am ET


Marc Heitz, Oklahoma's top-selling Chevrolet dealer, last week sold his hunting lodge-style store in Norman rather than change the facade and interior to comply with General Motors' facilities standards.

The sale came less than three months after Chevrolet sales chief Don Johnson visited the store and rejected a Heitz compromise so the store could continue collecting about $250,000 per quarter in dealer-excellence money from the Essential Brand Elements program.

"This way we didn't have to give up our principles for the money," Heitz, 48, said of the sale.

Oklahoma City Chevrolet dealer David Stanley bought Marc Heitz Chevrolet. Terms were not disclosed.

Stanley, 58, said he will bring the store into compliance with Chevrolet facilities standards, though it was too early to say how that will happen.

He said last week that he hoped to retain all 106 employees. "I love the store and the people around here," Stanley said. "We've already sold five or six cars today."

GM spokesman Tom Henderson declined to comment. Previously, GM had said the brand elements program, which pegs incentives to vehicle sales and quality benchmarks, would be unavailable to dealerships choosing "not to complete an image compliant facility."

Heitz said the Norman store, renamed David Stanley Chevrolet of Norman, is on pace to sell between 1,800 and 1,900 new vehicles in 2012. Stanley said David Stanley Chevrolet in Oklahoma City is the state's third best-selling Chevy store, with new-vehicle sales expected to reach 1,600 to 1,800 this year.

Stanley also owns David Stanley Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge in suburban Oklahoma City.

Heitz, a first-generation car dealer who grew up on a dairy farm in Norman, said his decision to sell the business was difficult but necessary.

He said in addition to the loss of incentive money, he faced a ruptured relationship with Chevrolet that might have eventually hurt his discretionary vehicle allocation and cost him his Mark of Excellence award among other certifications for highly rated sales and service.

Heitz said he poured his heart and $20 million into the store when he built it in 2008 along busy Interstate 35 about three miles from the University of Oklahoma. He first opened a Chevrolet store in Norman in a refitted bowling alley in 2000.

The log store has been a destination for car shoppers, picnickers and outdoor enthusiasts.

The building looks like a Bass Pro Shops outlet inside and out. Indoors, it features a 45-foot waterfall, giant aquarium for local game fish and imprints of animal tracks on the concrete showroom floor.

Outdoors, the store has two dog runs, a picnic area, animal statues and a 110-foot signature windmill that generates 3 percent of the store's electricity.

Heitz held charitable events on the grounds and offered the picnic area to all comers. New-vehicle sales grew year-over-year the entire time he was in business. Heitz said the store was the 15th best-selling Chevrolet dealership in America and third in Corvette sales.

He said covering the unique facade with blue-and-white cladding demanded by Chevrolet and tiling over the animal tracks in the showroom would have been akin to putting "socks on a rooster."

Heitz said he planned to travel with his wife of 26 years. He also has four children. He said he had no immediate work plans.

Before he left, he said he planned to thank customers with full-page ads scheduled to have run this past Sunday in Norman and Oklahoma City newspapers.

To Chevrolet, he was less magnanimous.

"I'm not a big fan of GM right now and the guys making decisions there," Heitz said. "My guess is they won't be around to see the results of their actions."

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GM, PSA scrap large car program, move forward with small engine development

GM Peugeot

Posted Dec 22nd 2012 3:02PM

The partnership between General Motors and PSA Peugeot-Citroën isn't expected to produce any results until 2016, but it has created plenty of news (and speculation) since it was formed back in February. Now, GM is laying out some of the specifics of the deal while Automotive News Europe is reporting plans have been scrapped to produce a shared platform for a midsize sedan.

In "definitive agreements" between the two automakers, GM says that three new vehicle platforms are still on track; one of these will bring a new compact minivan to GM's Opel and Vauxhall brands and a compact crossover to Peugeot, and the other platform will be for B-segment minivans for both entities to share. ANE says that the proposed shared platform for the Opel Insignia and Citroën was canceled due to the lack of a sound business case.

In addition to cars, the joint venture will also be an opportunity for both automakers to develop "high-performance, efficient" gasoline engines and to create joint purchasing to allow both companies to potentially save money (this aspect of the agreement is still pending legal clearance from anti-trust approvals).

GM's official statement is posted after the jump.
  • Major Product Development and Purchasing agreements signed
  • Expansion of scope to also include powertrain
  • Strengthening ties and cementing the Alliance

Detroit/Paris. PSA Peugeot Citroen (PSA) and General Motors (GM) today confirm the signature of major agreements in the execution of their Global Strategic Alliance. Consistent with the terms of the Master Agreement dated February 29, 2012, the Alliance partners have signed definitive agreements related to three of the initial vehicle projects as well as to the purchasing joint venture.

Three Common Vehicle Platform Development Projects

The first common vehicle projects selected encompass platform / architecture developments in the following segments:

1. A joint program for a C-MPV1 for Opel/Vauxhall and a C-CUV2 for the Peugeot brand
2. A joint MPV3 program for the B-segment for both Groups
3. The co-development of an upgraded low CO2 B-segment platform to feed Opel/Vauxhall and PSA's next generation of cars in Europe and other regions

Additional joint vehicle projects to further strengthen the Alliance are under review and in due course will be subject to future announcements.

The first vehicles resulting from this cooperation are expected to be launched in 2016. The Opel/Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen models will be highly differentiated and fully consistent with their respective brand characteristics.

Creation of Purchasing joint venture

The Alliance partners have signed a definitive agreement to create a joint purchasing organization in Europe supported by a purchasing joint venture. This new organization will draw on the combined purchasing reach of both companies to realize purchasing synergies. This is still subject to anti-trust approvals.

Further global initiatives

Based on the success of their collaboration, the partners also announce their intention for new additional global initiatives to broaden the scope of their Alliance and seize future opportunities:

Co-development of a next generation of high-performance, efficient small gas engines derived from PSA's global small petrol engine program (EB engine),
Exploration of product and industrial initiatives in Latin America or other growth markets.

1 Multi-purpose vehicle for the C segment
2 Crossover utility vehicle for the C segment
3 Multi-purpose vehicle

About General Motors

General Motors Co. (NYSE:GM, TSX: GMM) and its partners produce vehicles in 30 countries, and the company has leadership positions in the world's largest and fastest-growing automotive markets. GM's brands include Chevrolet and Cadillac, as well as Baojun, Buick, GMC, Holden, Isuzu, Daewoo, Jiefang, Opel, Vauxhall and Wuling. More information on the company and its subsidiaries, including OnStar, a global leader in vehicle safety, security and information services, can be found at

About PSA Peugeot Citroën

With its two world-renowned brands, Peugeot and Citroën, PSA Peugeot Citroën sold 3.5 million vehicles worldwide in 2011, of which 42% outside Europe. The second largest carmaker in Europe, it generated revenue of €59.9 billion during the year. PSA Peugeot Citroën has sales operations in 160 countries. In 2011, it allocated more than €2 billion to research and development, in particular in the field of new automotive propulsion technologies. PSA Peugeot Citroën is also involved in financing activities (Banque PSA Finance), logistics (GEFCO) and automotive equipment (Faurecia).For more information, please visit
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Out of this world driver Eugene Cernan recounts his ride on the moon

  • lrv1.jpg

    Eugene Cernan takes the LRV out for a test drive before loading on communications equipment and gear. (NASA)

  • lrv3.jpg

    Cernan's improvised fender. (NASA)

  • lrv2.jpg

    The LRV parked outside the LEM. (NASA)

  • lrv4.jpg

    Talk about in-car communications. Cernan and Schmitt could talk to mission control via the antenna deployed on the LRV. (NASA)

  • lrv6.jpg

    The LRV's last parking space, where it remains to this day. (NASA)


It’s the most famous abandoned car, not in this world, but in the universe.

Forty years ago today, the crew of Apollo 17, Capt. Ronald Evans, Harrison Schmitt and mission commander Capt. Eugene Cernan, safely returned to earth five days after departing the surface of the moon.

Until someone makes the return trip, Cernan’s name will be etched in the history books as not just the last man to walk on our celestial sister, but also the last to drive on it. Apollo 17 was one of three moon missions to bring along a Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV,) still the coolest electric car ever made and one that gave the astronauts the ability to cover much more ground during their short stays than would’ve been possible on foot.

The 10-foot-long two-seater was built by Boeing with some help from General Motors. Despite its lightweight aluminum frame, it could carry double its 463 pounds in the low-gravity environment of the moon. It was powered on its journeys by two 36-volt battery packs and has a Delco electric motor in each of its wheels to provide all-wheel-drive and redundancy in case of any malfunctions. Wire mesh “tires” fitted with titanium treads provided traction and a little cushioning in the vacuum of space.

After unloading the fold-up vehicle from the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM), Cernan and Schmitt literally hopped into it, thanks to the low gravity, fastened their lap belts, flipped a switch or two and were ready to go.

“There was no key. We weren’t worried about anybody stealing that automobile, especially the Soviets," recalled Cernan earlier today in an interview with "They were a quarter of a million miles away.”

The LRV is driven by a joystick-type controller between the seats that you simply push and pull to go forward and backward and roll side-to-side to turn the front wheels. Cernan said it could also be switched into four-wheel steering mode for very tight maneuvers.

“It never got stuck, but if it did, the two of us could just pick it up and turn it around,” Cernan said.

The LRV had a top speed of about 8 mph, but on one downhill run, Cernan set a relatively blistering lunar land speed record of 11.2 mph, and enjoyed it as much as driving one of the Corvettes he used to tool around Cocoa Beach in.

“It felt wonderful," he said. "You were bouncing around all the time. The only time you had four wheels on the ground was when you weren’t moving.”

One thing missing was the roar, or even whine of a motor. There’s no sound in space, of course, but Cernan doesn’t even remember hearing any noise resonating through his suit.

Over three days, the pioneering pair covered a total of 22.3 miles in the LRV, earning them a distance record, as well. They got to know the Taurus–Littrow valley they were exploring like the back of their hands and mostly got around using dead reckoning, or by following the markings that the LRV left on the surface. All the while, they knew that “if you crossed any tracks that weren’t yours you knew you were in real trouble.”

The main rule was not to drive so far that, in the event of a mishap, they wouldn't have enough oxygen in their tanks to walk back to base camp - the LEM. The furthest they went was about about five miles, and fortunately, they never had to hoof it back.

In fact, the only problem they ran into was when they were unloading the LRV from the LEM and Cernan accidentally knocked off part of a fender. On the moon, where lack of an atmosphere allows dust to kick up easily, a missing fender could lead to major problems for the communications equipment mounted on the LRV.

However, in what could be the most heroic gearhead moment of all time, Cernan created a makeshift fender by duct taping a couple of maps together and fastening them to the vehicle with a set of light clips. That handmade part is now on display in the Smithsonian Museum, the only bit of the rover to make it back to earth.

Cernan said some of the finer details of his trip have faded over the years, but four decades later he remembers exactly where he parked his car before heading for home. And there’s a good chance you do, too.

“I left it about a couple of hundred feet from the LEM. I set it up with the camera that was mounted on it pointed at the lunar module," he said. "They controlled the television camera remotely from mission control and that’s where those come from.”

NASA tried the same move during Apollo 16, but Cernan said they forgot about the 1.5-second delay for the radio signals to get to it and panned the camera up to late to follow the ascent stage leaving the surface. The shot of Schmitt and him taking off is the only one of the six missions to the moon captured on video in full, which somehow seems fitting.

The LRV wasn’t the only thing he left behind, however. Cernan traced his daughter’s initials in the surface next to the right front wheel where they likely remain today.

He thinks the LRV is good to go, too, and figures if someone went up there with a new set of batteries, they could plug them in and go for a spin. You get the impression he wouldn’t mind being the one that did it if he had the chance.

“It is the epitome of a sports car convertible, isn’t it?”

Car enthusiasts like to argue, but it’s doubtful any would argue with him.


What a story and the UAW was there!
Changing the world one Lunar Roving Vehicle at a time.

This is my America!



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Can women drive the future of the car industry?

By Felicia Taylor and Catriona Davies, CNN
December 11, 2012
Watch this video

GM boss weathered economic storm

  • Women influence more than 85% of new car purchases
  • But they make up less than 21% of the U.S manufacturing industry workforce
  • Grace Lieblein worked as General Motors engineer for 34 years, is now company president in Brazil
  • Fewer women in senior management positions in 2010 than in 2005, according to Automotive News

When Grace Lieblein started her career in a car assembly plant at the age of 18, she was a rare woman in a man's world.

Today, 34 years on, she is president and managing director of General Motors, Brazil, and trying to persuade more young women to reach the top in the car industry.

Lieblein says she has "gas in my veins." She studied engineering at what was then General Motors Institute, now Kettering University, in Flint, Michigan, and has worked for the company ever since.

Before moving to Brazil, she was chief engineer for vehicles such as the Buick Enclave and Chevy Traverse, and then president and managing director of General Motors in Mexico.

"My feeling was always, I'm going to get in and I'm going to do the best job that I can and I will build my credibility from there," she said.

"With that attitude I was able to win over some skeptics, and for those who maybe didn't change their mind, I figured that's their problem. That is not my problem."

Women's influence on new car purchases

Despite the progress, Lieblein is still working in a male-dominated environment.

Women made up just under 21% of employees in car manufacturing in the United States, and 16% of executives and senior management, according to a 2010 Equal Opportunity Employment Commission report.

Women senior managers in motor industry

Yet women buy 52% of all new cars in the United States, and influence more than 85% of sales, according to Forbes, so manufacturers should have a high incentive for reaching out to women.

Lieblein recognized this while working as chief engineer for the launch of the Buick Enclave in 2008. The car includes a dip in floor on the driver's side for women wearing high heels.

"The vehicle line executive was a woman, I was a chief engineer as a woman, my assistant chief engineer was a woman, a lot of my development engineers were women, our vehicle line director was a woman" said Lieblein.

"I don't know if the vehicle would have turned out differently if we hadn't had been a part of it.

"When we were launching the Buick Enclave or the Chevrolet Traverse, we did a lot of connection with mommy bloggers because we saw them as some of our key customers. It was a really great opportunity."

I was able to win over some skeptics, and for those who maybe didn't change their mind, I figured that's their problem.
Grace Lieblein

To encourage others to follow her into the boardroom, Lieblein has mentored young women, making sure they get the right assignments to make the most of their career.

"I picked out five young women and I helped to move them where they needed to go," she said. "I was able to take (on) these women and I tried to make sure they got the right assignments.

"When they look at senior leaders, they think that their life can only be work. So one thing that I really try and share with young people is that you can have a successful career but also a successful family life as well."

Also on Leading Women: How Scandinavia's 'CEO of ideas' puts creativity into action

While Lieblein and others have successfully risen through the ranks, the industry is struggling to attract and retain women in its senior positions.

When Automotive News compiled its list of "100 Leading Women in the North American Automotive Industry" in 2010, it found fewer women in the most senior positions than on its previous list in 2005.

There were just two women CEOs in 2010, down from five in 2005, and 51 women with executive officer titles, compared with 64 in 2005.

Deloitte carried out a survey of the 100 leading women to find out what was going wrong.

Its report "Women at the Wheel" found 56% of the women said their companies did not have an active recruitment program targeting women, and none thought the school system encouraged girls to pursue careers in the industry.

One senior woman told the report that engineering needed to improve its image in line with the "Hollywood-ization" of other careers such as medicine and law.

There are programs encouraging women in the industry. The Detroit-based Automotive Women's Alliance Foundation and the Women's Automotive Association International both offer scholarships to help women pursue careers in the industry.

Also on Leading Women: Your top-flight lawyer? She's a stay-at-home mom

We need to reach out to young girls and ... show them how engineering can be exciting.
Grace Lieblein

In the UK, Sarah Sillars, outgoing executive chair of the Institute of the Motor Industry, which represents car retailers, is about to take over as chief executive of the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies.

"We have got an image problem, and I don't think the industry has done enough to educate teachers, parents and careers advisers about opportunities and what it's like to work in the motor trade," said Sillars.

"There are lots of companies that go into schools in their localities, but we need to do that on a broader scale."

She said getting more girls to consider a career in engineering would be one of her top three priorities in her new job at the Sector Skills Council.

Lieblein, too, believes the task starts in schools, persuading girls to consider engineering.

"What we can do is really try and reach out to girls in middle school and high school, and talk to them about math and science," she said.

"We need to reach out to those young girls and make them see that they have the capability and then show them how engineering can be exciting."


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GM breaks ground on $7.5 million project for Flint Engine Operations

By Shaun Byron
on December 05, 2012 at 12:45 PM, updated December 05, 2012 at 1:15 PM
A groundbreaking was held Wednesday for new offices at General Motors Co.'s Flint Engine Operations on Bristol Road. Terri Burden, Flint Engine plant manager; Ben Schneider, Granger Construction project director; Junior Hargis, UAW Local 659 chairman; Terry Everman, UAW Local 599 chairman, and Dan Reyes, UAW Local 599 president were in attendance for the event.

FLINT, MI -- Two office buildings will be the latest additions to Flint Engine Operations, a site General Motors Co. has put almost $475 million into in recent years.

A groundbreaking for the project, budgeted at $7.5 million, was held Wednesday morning at the plant on Bristol Road in Flint.

Plant Manager Terri Burden, UAW Local 599 Chairman Terry Everman, UAW Local 659 Chairman Junior Hargis and representatives from Michigan-based Granger Construction were in attendance for the ceremony.

This is the first major construction project the automaker has undertaken in the area since 2006.

One of the buildings will be 10,000 square feet and sit at the northwest corner of the plant. The second will be 18,000 square feet of space and be erected at the southwest corner. The offices will replace trailers and a temporary administration building that housed staff and union offices.

"Ever since Flint Engine opened in 2001, we have been working out of the equivalent of trailers cobbled together to make an administration building," Burden said. "Earlier this year, GM allocated $7.5 million for us to build two office buildings and renovate two existing cafeterias to serve our facility.

"During the last four years, GM has pumped nearly $475 million into this plant and the new office building investment is like the frosting on the cake."

The original concept for the additions had 20,000 square feet for the northwest unit, but it was decided to downsize the offices and use additional space in the north end of the plant, said Tom Wickham, GM spokesman.

The offices at the southwest of the plant were originally to be 17,500 square feet, but that was only an estimate of what would be needed at that time, he said.

Construction has already started and is slated to be completed by the end of August 2013.

More than 75 percent of the trade contractors for the project will be from the Flint and Genesee County area, said Ben Schneider, project director for Granger Construction.

"I think that is going to be a big boost," he said. "The money is being spent locally.

"We are a Michigan-based company and we know the communities we work in. We get the best quality of labor because those are the people that care the most." 

Flint Engine produces the V6 for the Cadillac CTS, Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia. The northwest office unit will be for staff associated with that production.

The 1.4-liter engine for the Chevrolet Cruze, Sonic and Volt is also built at the plant. The southwest offices are for staff serving that side of engine production.

The plant has been the site of two previous construction projects in a little more than a decade. It was 726,000 square feet when it opened in 2001. It was expanded by 500,000 square feet in 2006.

In 2011, GM invested $84 million to expand production for the 1.4-liter engine. The year before, the automaker invested $138 million, which was also to expand production for the 1.4-liter engine.

Flint Engine employs 919 people -- 789 hourly and 130 salaried employees.


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Tuesday, 04 December 2012 20:37

10 Reasons GM's Profit Is About To Explode

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10 Reasons GM's Profit Is About To Explode
12/04/2012 @ 4:03PM
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 18:  General Motors (GM) C...

General Motors CEO Dan Akerson (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

General Motors has pocketed $5 billion in net profit so far this year, $1 billion more than crosstown rival Ford Motor, no surprise since GM is a larger company. But in North America, where the two carmakers compete most fiercely, Ford is way ahead.

Ford earned almost $6.5 billion in pre-tax profit selling vehicles in its home market through the first nine months of 2012. Its 11.2% operating margin on $57.8 billion of revenues (not counting Ford Motor Credit) was the company’s best in the region since 2000. Just a few years back, GM would have been thrilled with its own 7.8% pre-tax margin in North America. But after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 with a clean balance sheet, lower labor costs  and fewer obligations, it should be doing better. The earnings gap with Ford has become a glaring issue for GM and its investors.

Chief Executive Dan Akerson said he’s confident GM can improve its margins by the middle of the decade. “It will be a function of volume growth, even stronger brands, less complexity, and lower…costs, all of which is built into our business plan.”

But a business plan is just that: a plan. GM has disappointed so many times before. The biggest risk is execution. Akerson, a former private-equity manager whose background is in telecommunications, is new to the auto industry. He’s leading a young team of executives and trying to kick-start cultural change in a 100-year-old company where change is hard to swallow. A former U.S. Naval officer, Akerson rules with an iron fist and demands accountability. But at times, he has appeared to be floundering.

Meanwhile, competitors aren’t letting up, despite a sluggish economic recovery and gridlock in Washington over taxes and spending.

Still, let’s give credit where credit is due. GM has started to get its act together in many ways.                          Here are 10 reasons GM’s profits should start to kick into high gear in 2013 and beyond.

  1. The next two years are huge for GM showrooms. Every carmaker tries to balance the cadence of its new vehicle introductions to ensure there is always something new on display, but some years inevitably end up being better than others. GM’s financial troubles in 2009 meant it had to suspend or delay some products. Now the engineering pipeline is full again, and new vehicles are coming out in record numbers. GM says it will replace 80 percent of its lineup in the next two years, including its next-generation pickups and large crossovers which debut in mid-2013. “We are going to go from having the oldest portfolio in North America to the freshest portfolio,” said Stevens. New products typically command higher prices, which roll right to the bottom line, and trucks, in particular, carry hefty profit margins. Citi Research says GM ought to realize $1 billion in extra profit in 2013 because of its stronger product offerings.
  2. GM has stopped giving away the store. The company has shown uncharacteristic pricing discipline over the past year, especially in recent months, by resisting the temptation to match rivals’ discounts. In fact, GM’s incentive spending has been falling through the year. In November, it spent about $2,800 per vehicle on incentives — everything from cash rebates, lease promotions, cheap loans and dealer incentives. That was equal to 8.8% of GM’s average vehicle transaction price (ATP), below the industry average of 9.5% of ATP, according to J.D. Power and Associates’ PIN report.
  3. GM’s size is becoming an asset. For years, GM’s sprawling, decentralized operations were an excuse for its global inefficiency. Now it’s turning that around, leveraging its size by building more vehicles on shared global platforms, which reduces engineering costs. Ford is doing the same thing, but is about two years ahead, according to GM executives. GM’s goal is for about 80 percent of the vehicles it sells to be based on one of a handful of global architectures, twice today’s level.
  4. GM is hacking waste. Bankruptcy cleaned up GM’s balance sheet, but it did nothing about the wasteful practices inside the company. Akerson is relentless about making GM a simpler company, which in turn, he argues, will lower its costs. GM cut an entire layer of management out of its product development unit, for instance, giving chief engineers more responsibility for product cost, quality and competitiveness. GM is also rebuilding its information technology infrastructure, bringing more tech expertise in-house.  “Benchmarking proved what we knew intuitively — GM’s outsourced IT model is expensive, inefficient, and outmoded,” Akerson told analysts. “Now all of that is changing and it’s going to help us manage the business with even more speed and precision.”
  5. Labor costs are lower.  A game-changing union contract in 2007 (further modified during GM’s 2009 bankruptcy and again in 2011) sharply reduced GM’s average hourly labor cost by allowing a lower starting wage for new hires and by shifting responsibility for retiree health care to a new UAW-controlled trust. GM’s total labor cost, including benefits, is now estimated to be $56 per hour, on a par with Toyota Motor‘s $55, according to the Center for Automotive Research. As older workers retire, GM will be able to hire new workers at half the wage. By 2015, CAR estimates that 23% of GM workers will be earning the lower tier wage.
  6. Retiree health care is now the union’s problem. In 2010, GM officially washed its hands of responsibility for providing health care to 410,000 retirees and their dependents, immediately wiping billions in liabilities off its balance sheet.
  7. The pension bogeyman is shrinking, too. For years, GM’s obligation to retired workers has been a drag on earnings. GM began the year with $36 billion in salaried pension obligations but eliminated $29 billion of it by offering lump sum payments to white-collar retirees and transferring the bulk of the rest to an annuitized trust. GM is likely to seek similar transactions to reduce the $98 billion in pensions owed to U.S. hourly retirees and foreign workers.
  8. GM isn’t paying federal taxes. GM lost money for so long that it piled up billions of dollars in net operating loss tax carryforwards, which it may use to offset future tax payments during better times. After GM emerged from bankruptcy with the U.S. Treasury as majority owner, the Internal Revenue Service determined that those deferred tax credits could remain on the company’s books. Though critics complained it was another gift from the Obama Administration, GM had earned them with its lousy performance prior to bankruptcy. In October, GM said if positive financial trends continue, it might reverse the valuation allowance on a large chunk of its $39 billion in deferred tax assets in the U.S. and Canada. That would increase GM’s effective tax rate from 19% to 30%, but only on paper. Morgan Stanley estimates that because of those carryforwards, GM won’t pay cash taxes to the US government until 2018.
  9. GM is well-positioned in the right markets. Auto sales are growing fastest in North America and the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and GM is a major player in all of them. In the U.S., a recovery in the housing market is already under way, which helps auto sales, especially pickup trucks. Great timing for GM’s new pickups. Meanwhile, GM continues to invest heavily in China, the world’s largest auto market, and is restructuring in South America to take advantage of explosive growth.
  10. GM customers have better access to credit. GM sold its GMAC lending arm during the depths of its crisis, which made it harder for GM customers to get a good deal on a car loan. Now GM is rebuilding a captive finance company through acquisitions. In 2010, it bought subprime auto lender Americredit and recently it added Ally Financial’s auto lending operations in Latin America, Europe and China. GM Financial now is expected to chip in $1 billion a year in earnings before taxes.

So what could go wrong? Plenty, of course.

GM’s Opel operation in Europe is still a mess, piling up $1 billion in losses per year, not to mention stealing countless hours of management attention. A new leadership team, led by GM Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky, is working on a turnaround plan, but it’s a tough slog. Girsky doesn’t expect GM Europe to break even until mid-decade.

GM could crack on incentives. GM’s November sales were softer than the rest of the industry, and inventories are piling up. Part of this is intentional — GM is stockpiling pickup trucks in preparation for the production ramp-up of its next-generation trucks. But other trends are worrisome. GM’s retail sales at dealerships were flat during the month, while traditionally less profitable fleet sales rose 16 percent.

The auto recovery could run out of gas if the country falls back into recession. If Washington can’t find a solution to avoid the notorious “fiscal cliff” — a combination of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts set to kick in after Dec. 31 — auto sales could plunge as much as 20 percent, according to chief economist Lacey Plache. Instead of selling 15 million units in 2013 as forecasted, the industry might sell only 12 million to 13.5 million vehicles. GM insists it can withstand a significant drop in sales because it has already lowered its costs enough to break even at 11 million units.

That in itself would be an accomplishment.

GM shares are trading around $25, well below their Nov. 2010 initial public offering price of $33.


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Thursday, 29 November 2012 21:30

GM to build third factory complex in China

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GM to build third factory complex in China


General Motors (Scott Olson, Getty Images)
General Motors (Scott Olson, Getty Images)
AP Wire
Updated: 11/28 12:52 pm

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors and its joint venture partners say they will build a third factory complex in China to keep pace with rising sales.

GM China, SAIC and Wuling Motors expect to start construction on the plant in the Chongqing municipality early in 2013, with the $1 billion first phase opening in 2015. Eventually the plant will be able to build 400,000 vehicles and engines per year, the company said in a statement Wednesday.

GM wouldn't say what models the factory will build or how large it will be.

The automaker already has factories in Liuzhou, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and Qingdao, Shandong. The new factory will give GM factory bases in southern, northern and central China to serve the world's largest auto market. When the Chongqing factory is finished, GM and its joint ventures with the government will be able to build 2 million vehicles per year.

The joint venture has been the leading small commercial vehicle producer in China since 2006, and in 2009, it became the first manufacturer in China to sell 1 million vehicles in a calendar year, the company said in a statement.

GM and its joint ventures in China sold an October-record 251,812 vehicles. Sales are up 14.3 percent on an annual basis, as GM's major brands in China reached new highs for the month.

China's auto sales rebounded in October but Japanese brands suffered a sharp downturn amid a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo. Sales rose 6.4 percent to 1.3 million vehicles, according to the government-sanctioned China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. That was a recovery from September's 0.3 percent contraction — the first monthly decline this year.

General Motors Co. shares rose 5 cents to $25.06 in morning trading. They have traded in a 52-week range of $18.72 to $27.68.


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Tuesday, 27 November 2012 18:15

(GM) 2012 Year in Review

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(GM) 2012 Year in Review

The auto maker posts another profitable year and continues to make investments in the U.S. and emerging markets. The good news in Europe, executives say, is early restructuring efforts are showing modest results.

GM Chairman, CEO Dan Akerson


Highlights of the year’s major events affecting General Motors:

  • General Motors begins 2012 by reporting an eye-popping $7.6 billion profit for 2011. But the resounding evidence of the auto maker’s restructuring from its 2009 bankruptcy is overtaken by news of its difficulties in Western Europe.

    GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson promises an exhaustive overhaul of Adam Opel, the auto maker’s long-struggling German subsidiary made doubly weak by the sovereign debt crisis gripping Europe. GM’s efforts to execute Opel’s turnaround will continue throughout the year, including persistent rumors the unit is up for bid.
  • GM announces plans for a $200 million stamping facility at its Arlington, TX, large SUV assembly plant. The investment will accommodate production of its redesigned pickup trucks coming in 2013 and take on work previously performed at other GM sites.
  • CEO Dan Akerson testifies before the U.S. Congress on the safety of the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle. The National Highway Traffic Safety Admin. in 2011 investigated the possibility of battery fires in a crash.

    The car is deemed safe, but as Akerson tells lawmakers, in the process it has been turned into a “political punching bag.” Later in the month, GM announces safety enhancements to the Volt.
  • GM Vice Chairman and longtime engineering executive Tom Stephens retires. Stephens most recently had served as the auto maker’s chief technology officer, a position research and development chief John Lauckner adds to his responsibilities.
  • Mary Barra, senior vice president-global product development, joins the Opel supervisory board, replacing Walter Borst. The move further emphasizes the direct role GM’s top executives will play in turning around the unit.

    Steve Girksy, GM’s vice chairman, Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann and GM International Operations chief Tim Lee were appointed to Opel’s supervisory board several months earlier. The four U.S. executives bolster the appointment of Karl-Friedrich Stracke as head of GM Europe and CEO of Opel.
  • GM names longtime executive Sergio Rocha to lead the auto maker’s GM Korea subsidiary after the sudden resignation of Michael Arcamone a month earlier. The appointment is a homecoming of sorts for Rocha, who led product development at the Korean unit when it operated under the GM Daewoo Auto and Technology name in the previous decade.
  • Speaking with WardsAuto at the Washington auto show, GM North America President Mark Reuss reiterates the auto maker’s belief in the Chevy Volt EREV despite persistently sparse monthly sales results since its launch one year earlier.

    With the U.S. presidential election just 10 months away, Republican candidate Mitt Romney begins labeling the Volt as a failure of President Obama’s bailout of GM and Chrysler in 2009.
  • Saab Cars North America President and Chief Operating Officer Timothy Colbeck tells media in Las Vegas for the annual National Automobile Dealers Assn. gathering that a slim chance exists for the former GM marque.

    Hope for the bankrupt Swedish auto maker, whose topsy-turvy tumble takes nearly three years and culminates in GM blocking its sale to Chinese investors, dissolves later in the year with its final liquidation.

    National Electric Vehicle Sweden, a group backed by a Hong Kong-based energy company, buys the Saab name in Sweden with intentions of building EVs. In the U.S., former Saab Cars USA dealers and creditors stand in line for scraps from the unit’s liquidation.
  • GM in February appoints manufacturing-operations veteran Alicia Boler-Davis to the position of U.S. vice president-customer experience. Her task focuses on improving the GM ownership experience. Boler-Davis replaces Paul Copses, who the auto maker reassigns elsewhere in the organization.

    One month later, Boler-Davis adds responsibility for global quality, as she takes over that position from Terry Wychowski, who elects to retire.
  • GM appoints Randy Mott, a veteran chief information technology officer and onetime CIO at Hewlett-Packard, to lead a broad restructuring of the auto maker’s IT department. Mott replaces an exiting Terry Kline.

    Mott’s yearlong plan includes bringing GM’s IT services back in-house after years of outsourcing the task to HP. The auto maker expects the decision to save millions of dollars annually.
  • The all-new Chevrolet Colorado midsize pickup truck gets off to a hot start in Thailand, the first market to receive the global product. Developed by GM’s Asia/Pacific and Brazilian units, the pickup will come to the U.S. in 2013 and be built at the auto maker’s Wentzville, MO, assembly plant.

    The U.S. assembly plant building the older version of the pickup in Shreveport, LA, goes black, having built 4.5 million vehicles over its 31 years. GM off-loaded the facility in 2011 to its bankruptcy trust, which is seeking a new tenant for the space but unlikely to be an auto maker.
  • GM and French auto maker PSA Peugeot Citroen surprise the industry in February by inking a global alliance aimed at saving billions of dollars annually in product development and purchasing dollars. The alliance calls for at least five new products for the auto makers’ Opel, Vauxhall, Peugeot and Citroen brands by 2016 and the formation of a joint purchasing unit.
  • GM in March announces plans to idle its assembly plant in Detroit making the Chevy Volt due to high inventories of the EREV. WardsAuto reports GM plans to extend the annual 2-week summer shutdown at the plant.

    The auto maker eventually does just that, but says the extra downtime is needed for the model-year changeover. A month later, the plant makes more news when its goes idle, although this time GM attributes the downtime to preparation for building the Chevy Impala in 2013.
  • The Opel supervisory board approves a plan for restructuring the auto maker. The scheme includes the closure of the Bochum, Germany, assembly plant and a pledge to add a slate of new products and engines to the brand.
  • GM announces a new small car at Opel will be called the Adam, one of 23 new models and 13 new engines by 2016 meant to fuel the unit’s turnaround. The name plays on the German auto maker’s founder and namesake Adam Opel. The Adam later bows to positive reviews at the Paris auto show in September.
  • Shanghai GM breaks ground in June on a new assembly plant in Wuhan, Hubei province, in central China. The $1 billion facility includes press, body assembly, paint and support services and boasts a capacity of 300,000 units annually.
  • GM begins an expansion in Russia of its GM-AvtoVAZ joint venture, a plan expected to double production from 98,000 units to 230,000 by 2015. It is seen as the auto maker’s most significant development since the JV was formed in St. Petersburg in 2008.
  • In arguably the biggest marketing story in years involving the auto industry, GM inks a 7-year deal worth a reported $600 million for Chevrolet to sponsor the shirts of England’s Manchester United football team.

    The deal comes the day after GM ousted Joel Ewanick, the auto maker’s global chief financial officer and architect of the shirt contract. A statement from the auto maker says Ewanick “failed to meet the expectations that the company has for its employees.” News would emerge later that he did not properly vet the financial components of the deal. The gregarious Ewanick reportedly also clashed with GM’s button-down culture.

    The Manchester United deal surprises many in the industry not only for its financial scale, but also because British football (soccer) has limited appeal in the U.S. However, GM wants to grow Chevrolet into a global brand and “Man U’ ranks as the most appealing team in the world’s most popular sport.
  • GM shakes up its manufacturing leadership, with International Operations chief Tim Lee adding management of the auto maker’s global manufacturing footprint to his responsibilities. Lee takes over for Diana Tremblay, who will lead GM’s North American manufacturing operations and report to Lee.

    Dan Akerson cites Lee’s international experience as the major reason for the change, noting 70% of GM’s products are built and sold outside of North America.
  • GM axes its top executive in Europe, Karl-Friedrich Stracke, who also leads Opel. The auto maker appoints turnaround specialist Thomas Sedran as interim CEO of Opel and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky as interim CEO of GM Europe.

    Stracke moved to the top of GM Europe a year after Nick Reilly announced his retirement from GM. Stracke had been serving as CEO of Opel for nearly 16 months before taking on the additional duties. The surprise move by GM leaves analysts curious about the outcome of the company’s turnaround plan for the region.
  • GM names 25-year industry veteran and German native Michael Lohscheller as chief financial officer and vice president-finance at Opel/Vauxhall. Lohscheller joins GM from Volkswagen Group of America, where he served as CFO. Lohscheller replaces Mark N. James, whose future at GM’s European unit is undetermined.
  • GM names Michael Ableson as Opel/Vauxhall board member in charge of engineering and GM Europe vice president-engineering. He previously served as the auto maker’s global vehicle line executive for compact cars and replaces Rita Forst, who later resigns.
  • GM restructures its product-development operations, removing a layer of management and placing a single executive in charge of product programs for each of the auto maker’s market segments.

    As part of the shakeup, which eliminates 20 executive positions globally, Doug Parks is named vice president-product programs. Parks will manage the product-program chiefs and report to Mary Barra, GM’s head of product development.
  • Dave Lyon, a U.S.-based designer newly appointed to lead design at Opel/Vauxhall, abruptly leaves at the end of July. Formerly in charge of the Buick brand in the U.S., Lyon quits GM on the eve of his departure for Opel headquarters in Russelsheim.

    Mark Adams, who preceded Lyon in the position and was on his way to the U.S. for a design assignment, stays on as the acting chief stylist in Europe until a replacement is found. The changes in design management come alongside a restructuring of GM’s global studios, placing more emphasis on individual brands.
  • GM in August seeks to settle worries over its Opel restructuring, saying the plan remains on track despite the departure of key executives, declining market share and continued gloominess in Europe.

    Reporting a better-than-expected $1.5 billion profit in the year’s second quarter, Dan Akerson says the auto maker will not hesitate to change leadership and its plan for turning around Opel will move faster than GM’s history might suggest.
  • GM China and local joint-venture partner SAIC in September open what they call the largest industrial complex in China west of Shanghai. The 2.2-sq.-mile (5.7-sq.-km) facility cost $254 million and will support design and development of vehicles by the Pan Asia Automotive Technical Center owned by GM China and SAIC.
  • GM China President Kevin Wale, a fixture for the auto maker in Asia/Pacific for many years, announces his retirement. Bob Socia, vice president-purchasing and supply chain, takes over for Wale. A permanent replacement for Socia isn’t immediately named.
  • GM announces a $450 million investment in Argentina. The outlay will accommodate  production of a new global Chevrolet vehicle for sale locally and for export.
  • Robert Ferguson, GM’s voice in Washington as vice president-global policy, assumes the newly created position of global marketing chief for Cadillac. He is tasked with marketing, brand management and advertising for the brand, which GM wants to grow into a global luxury player.

    Ferguson carries the same telecommunications background as Dan Akerson and former Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre. He also served in recent years as a senior strategist for a major communications firm.
  • GM earns $1.5 billion in the third quarter, weaker than year-ago but beating most Wall Street estimates. Europe continues to drag on the auto maker, losing $478 million in the period.

    However, Vice Chairman Steve Girsky says in the financial report that initial evidence of GM’s turnaround in Europe has emerged in recent weeks. He cites critically acclaimed new products, lower fixed costs and, for the first time in years, an operating profit from the unit.
  • GM announces in November it has secured an $11 billion credit facility. The line of credit gives the company backup liquidity, but also serves as a vote of confidence from the global financial community in the auto maker’s turnaround.
  • Covering you world:


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