GirlDriver, USA

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

More Conversation with Mark Reuss

Here's more  conversation with Mark Reuss, Executive Vice President, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, who spoke to a group of journalists at the New York Auto Show.  He talks about Buick, Cadillac and how he figures out value for GM customers.

So, was this year’s New York Auto Show a big show for you?

Yes. On the Malibu.  “We’ve got competitors that are entrenched in the segment. So [we focused on] things we know are really important in the segment like operating costs, value, comfort and dynamic style. It is really hard to do on a sedan. It’s hard to create something that hasn’t been done before, something original, and I think we’ve done that with the Malibu.”

With Cadillac getting the focus on luxury could you discuss what the strategy is for Buick in the  near term?

Buick’s been very, very successful.  The articulation for me at Buick is really elegance and maybe a different approach to refinement than Cadillac.  And I think that’s what Buick’s always been.  And once in a while we’ll throw a wild card in there that gets everybody’s blood pumping like the GS AWD, which is really a great car and it’s right within Buick because it’s a beautiful car, very refined and elegant and still fun.  So I think that’s it and I think the Avenir exudes every single piece of that that you could ever imagine.  That’s why we did the car.  That car is not a Cadillac.  It’s not ever going to be mistaken for a Cadillac and its not hard to articulate why.  And people get it.  That’s why those brands are doing great—GMC and Buick.

The center for design for Buick is where?  China?

There is no center for design.  We’re a global design center. We really are.  Our brand studio is in Warren, Michigan.  The execution of the car though could happen at a studio in China and it has. Or it could happen here. But I don’t think it’s going to happen in Brazil.  So those are the two spiritual places where the markets are. We can share workloads and we can do all kinds of stuff.

When you talk about Buick as an elegant and refined Brand I think of it in those terms as an older buyer.

You do and I do. The people a generation behind us don’t have any baggage behind Buick typically.  So we’ve got a really cool buyer base that is diverse from a nationality standpoint and also from an age standpoint.  We see a lot of people taking the Asian perception of the brand into the United States. It’s really not traditional, especially on the West Coast. 

Can you articulate why you are successful in the premium segment and nobody else really is—why nobody can find the sweet spot?

I think we have a really clear vision of that and a focus on it and what it is and what it isn’t and that clarity I think is something that people really struggle with especially in a big company.  But I started there and I grew up there.  I worked in Flint for a good chunk of my career.  There are some people that are Buick zealots and know what it should be and think that helps. bringing people in from the outside to tell you what Buick should be is probably not a good idea.  Because we’ve been pretty successful with it since the beginning of General Motors.  I think people get it that work there that work on it.

Is there a development dichotomy between fuel economy and performance?

There are a couple of things I know.  Fuel prices with either stay the same or go up or go down. I am certain of that. I do know there’s been permanent changes in the way people buy.  Some of those are generational and some of those are income based.  We save cost using lower displacement engines that can do the same thing as a larger engine and on a lighter car. We can get our operating costs back—that value equation for the customer is much more valuable than electrification by itself on an older architecture. Independent of gas prices or the economy, that value equation never really changes. There will be electrification pieces that will make a lot of sense because there will be people that want 48 miles to the gallon but they want that at a value equation that pays back. And they like driving a hybrid and they like driving something that’s progressive and has less emissions.  There are people out there and, generationally,  are growing.

How much of a problem is it to get GM’s vehicles selling at higher prices? 

Incentives and discount prices are a road to nowhere.  Offer people what they are willing to pay for, what they value.  It’s what they value.  What are they really buying and what are they willing to pay for? Unlocking that for each car is what’s important. 

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