Autos

Mary Barra, General Motors’ chief executive, is struggling to contain the fallout from the revelation that the carmaker failed for more than a decade to reveal concerns about the safety of ignition switches on some of its compact cars.

GM this week announced a slew of new recalls and more than doubled its expected charge this quarter to $750m. On Tuesday, Ms Barra and David Friedman, acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, appear before the US House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee to explain what went wrong and why.

Robert Wright and Shannon Bond report from New York

 

John Gapper

General Motors CEO Mary Barra

General Motors’ widening of the recalls of US cars and trucks for safety and other defects is a challenge for Mary Barra, its new chief executive, as she prepares to testify to Congress this week. Read more

Andrew Hill

Straight-talking Karl-Thomas Neumann, chief executive of Opel, has given the world of reputation management a useful new metaphor for brand-blight: the “red elephant”.

At the Geneva motor show, he told the FT that the General Motors-owned German marque had suffered from a perception problem:

There was a red elephant standing beside the car that nobody talked about which says: ‘You can’t buy me because I’m an Opel’ … and we are addressing this now.

Not welcome in the showroom (image: Dreamstime)

Whether or not Mr Neumann has mixed up “elephants in the room” and “red flags”, I find the image compelling enough to be worth spreading.

Plenty of companies persist in assuming that a brand’s historic reputation will sustain it, without tackling the scarlet pachyderm that may be frightening off customers. Antidotes include: 1) making such a noise about the brand that it drowns out the trumpeting of the creature standing alongside; 2) improving the quality of the product so that it is no longer dwarfed by the public (mis)perception about it. Read more

John Gapper

Aston Martin recall gives an insight into the supply chains of even luxury carmakers (Bloomberg)

Aston Martin’s recall of most of the cars it has built in the past six years is damaging to the company, but even more damaging for the reputation of parts suppliers in the Pearl River Delta in China. Read more

If you can avoid it, never get into a position where Sergio Marchionne can force you to play poker. That applies literally, as Fiat executives who fly on its (rented) corporate jet know, and metaphorically, as other companies have discovered in the past decade.

Andrew Hill

Mustang Mulally: the Ford CEO, in a 2015 Ford Mustang (Getty Images)

Alan Mulally has a reputation for being decisive, so his declaration that he has “no plans to do anything other than serve Ford” – crushing speculation that he could leave to run Microsoft – should probably be taken at face value.

But Ford’s chief executive has wavered over big jobs before – notably when the carmaker was trying to lure him to Dearborn from Boeing in 2006. Read more

Andrew Hill

GM's off – and Barra's driving (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Of two immediately obvious facts about Mary Barra, chief executive elect at General Motors, the more interesting is not that she is a woman but that she is a company “lifer”.

To my mind, GM looks as though it is signalling that it has turned the corner following the trauma of government bailout, just as Citigroup did when it appointed career insider Michael Corbat as chief executive last year. Read more

In 2010, seven managers from PSA Peugeot Citroën and five from Chang’an Automobile met in Shenzhen, southern China, to lay the groundwork for a new car factory. Three years later, Capsa, a 50-50 joint venture between the French and Chinese companies, is in the final stages of preparing a 1m square metre plant for the September launch of Chinese-made premium cars under the DS brand. “Because we were beginning from a blank sheet, people wanted to make it as perfect as possible,” says Gilles Boussac, Capsa’s president, between meetings with his team of mostly Chinese managers. “So often in China, if you’re trying to rework or improve something, it takes years to achieve.”