GM CEO predicts share gains after falling to 88-year low

General Motors Co., armed with new products such as a redesigned Chevrolet Silverado pickup, should see “modest” U.S. share growth this year after falling to an 88-year low in 2012, Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said.

Akerson is introducing 13 new Chevrolet models this year in the U.S. while fighting to end losses in Europe and managing operations in China, the company’s biggest market, where the economy is slowing.

“It starts and ends with product, that’s what we’ve been focused on since bankruptcy,” Akerson told reporters at the company’s Detroit headquarters. This year and next “will be good years, not only here domestically but on an international basis.”

Under Akerson, GM’s U.S. market share last year fell to 17.9 percent, the lowest since 1924, Alfred P. Sloan’s first full year running the automaker. The company’s share decline came as some competitors, including Toyota Motor Corp., rebounded from production constraints following natural disasters in 2011.

“If we don’t grow faster than the market we’re not taking market share by definition, so I do think we’ll grow faster than the market,” Akerson said in advance of next week’s North American International Auto Show. “Certainly that’s our hope and that’s our expectation.”

GM gained 2 percent to $29.97 in New York, the highest closing price since July 22, 2011.

While Akerson is optimistic, GM’s share may hold steady this year compared with 2012, even with the new models, according to a Bloomberg survey of five analysts.

Product Surge

The company is refreshing 70 percent of its U.S. lineup over a year and a half, including a redesigned Impala full-sized sedan and Corvette sports car.

Along with the new product surge, Akerson is pushing GM to improve operating margins, improve customer service and revamp the automaker’s corporate structure to align its business around Chevrolet and Cadillac brands globally and away from regional operations.

Akerson said he sees GM’s international operations, which include China, growing 5 percent this year while its South America business will be little changed.

Europe, where industry sales have fallen to the lowest in almost two decades, will continue to be a challenge for GM. The automaker has struggled to stop losses in the region with its Opel brand.

“We see the market weakening,” Akerson said. “Germany looks like it could be slipping into recession.”

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