Automotive > Infotainment & Telematics Blog



2018: GM Shrugged

by Roger Lanctot | Dec 27, 2018

On April 29, 2015, FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne made the case for auto makers to get big or go home as part of his now-famous “Confessions of a Capital Junkie” presentation. The sub-title of that presentation was “An insider’s view on the cure for the industry’s value-destroying addiction to capital.”

https://tinyurl.com/y8365vsm - “Confessions of a Capital Junkie” - Autonews

A key conclusion of the presentation – which provided extensive insights into the cost of creating automobiles – was that “consolidation is the key to remedying the problem.” Marchionne’s prescription for FCA at the time was a merger with GM with the goal of consolidating powertrain development expenditures to enhance the competitiveness of the two companies.

Marchionne’s bottom line: “The potential gains are too large to ignore.”

Marchionne passed away July 25th of this year. GM had turned aside his pleas to merge and, in fact, moved in precisely the opposite direction he was suggesting. GM sold its Opel operations to PSA in March of 2017.

Combined with various global market exits including India, Australia, Russia and South Africa, GM managed to slim itself down to fifth or sixth in global vehicle production market share by the end of 2018 – with further slimming anticipated as the company concluded 2018 hinting at a significant shift away from the passenger vehicle segment in favor of SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks.

GM’s departure from the global spotlight as the erstwhile largest auto maker in the world has left that stage to Toyota and Volkswagen. These two car companies now standalone as the global vehicle production leaders, sometimes joined by Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi - itself mired in a management leadership struggle.

GM’s decline in 2018 has sent a significant vibration throughout the automotive industry as its sales share downturn has impacted its technology leadership. GM is no longer calling the tune in powertrain, safety, infotainment or connectivity technologies.

Toyota and Volkswagen are stepping forward. Toyota is pushing its ePallette mobility vision and a connectivity tie-up with Japanese telecommunications company KDDI to create a global connectivity strategy. Volkswagen finishes 2018 having acquired a controlling interest in WirelessCar and is leveraging Cubic Telecom’s connectivity platform as part of a wider strategy to dominate vehicle connectivity as it lays the groundwork to dominate electric vehicles.

Even FCA has a powerful infotainment story to tell through leveraging SiriusXM’s 360L platform in North America paired with an LTE connection to deliver a transformative infotainment experience. GM, meanwhile, continues to grope for an effective OnStar strategy along with a meandering Maven mobility effort.

2018 will be remembered as the year GM shrugged off the mantle of industry leadership and stepped aside to allow bolder players to take the lead. Can GM find a way to leverage Cruise, Super Cruise, Maven, Bolt or OnStar to gain or regain market leadership in 2019?

Can Toyota and Volkswagen fill the void that GM is leaving? The CES show coming up in two weeks in Las Vegas should help to clarify the sources of auto industry leadership in 2019. Prominent auto maker exhibitors at the event will include Ford, FCA, American Honda, Nissan Motor Co., Audi, Daimler, Hyundai and Kia.

Among the keynotes, in two weeks, will be multiple current and former GM partners including LG Electronics, IBM and Verizon. Curiously, no auto maker will take the stage for a keynote at CES 2019 – though GM, Ford and Audi are among those who have taken that spotlight in the past. Instead, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will speak to “The New Mobility Revolution.”

Marchionne’s conclusions from his years-ago presentation:

  • Top OEMs spent over €100bn for product development in 2014 only, >€2bn/week in product development and tooling costs, and poised to invest at similar rates in the future
  • Historical returns have been broadly below cost of capital, even after the restructuring of the US auto industry and NAFTA volumes at peak
  • Single purpose projects, JVs and the like are helpful, but they are not enough
  • Capital consumption rate by OEMs is unacceptable—it is duplicative, does not deliver real value to consumers and is pure economic waste
  • Consolidation carries executional risks BUT benefits are too large to ignore - Up to €4.5bn per annum, ~70% of which is a reduction in investments and R&D - Optimized industrial allocations, with no impact on number employed - Distribution (dealer networks not merged) and brands untouched by consolidation - An exceptional value creation opportunity for shareholders
  • It is ultimately a matter of leadership style and capability…

Speaking of which, despite all the critics and skeptics and reported bad behavior and legal action in 2018, Tesla Motors’ CEO Elon Musk can end the year boasting of more than doubling his rate of quarterly vehicle production. In 2019 Tesla will become much more than a rounding error on global vehicle production assessments. More than a few global auto makers will be taking their architectural and design cues in 2019 from Musk.

Previous Post: GM: Stop the Downsizing | Next Post: 2019: The Year of Electrification
Leave a comment