Sep. 27 - General Motors' vice chairman Stephen Girsky says his company is evaluating Tesla to see if there is anything GM should be changing as new competition springs up from around the world. Conway G. Gittens reports.
There's a David and Goliath battle shaping up in the auto industry and you may be surprised who's who. Tesla has emerged as the Goliath to beat in the electric car segment and General Motors, the David in this coming showdown, is sizing up the competition from "cradle to grave", says General Motors' vice chairman Stephen Girsky. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN GIRSKY, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "Tesla is challenging basically the entire auto-moto business model as it stands today. We have a hundred years of history. In some cases, this history is good. In other cases, it might be a baggage. They are challenging the model from how cars are sold, how they are serviced, how they're engineered and how they're actually put together, and we want to evaluate the model to see if there is anything we should be changing." And it is not just Tesla that will make the next five years competitively tough. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN GIRSKY, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "In the last five we only had to deal with Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota, the existing players, the next five you got new players, an emerging player like Geelys and Tata from these new markets, as well as the innovative players like Tesla, and even Google is looking at building self-driving cars." And he admits, GM has to step up when it comes to innovation too. The automaker is exploring opportunities like installing 4G LTE mobile broadband in some of its vehicles. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN GIRSKY, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "The average consumers spends 47 minutes a day in their car. And think about the ability of 4G and stream data and features into a car 47 minutes a day. We think it's a wide-open opportunity." At the same time, GM still has to work on patching up operations in Europe, where Opel is its biggest bet. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN GIRSKY, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "Our focus right now is reversing our market share slide. We are holding our share this year, and, if we are able to hold our share this year, it will be the first time in fifteen years that our share has not declined." But removing costs is still high on the agenda, he adds, until the future is clearer. SOUNDBITE: STEPHEN GIRSKY, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS (ENGLISH) SPEAKING: "A lot of visible items have already been announced, but the organization is still focused on reducing costs. The markets overall, we think have bottomed. We like to say that they have to stop getting worse before they get better and we think they stopped getting worse. When they start getting better, it's anyone's guess. We think it's still going to be a slow recovery." Europe's car market is headed for its sixth straight annual fall.