GM exec praises suppliers

DETROIT - Following the attacks of Sept. 11, General Motors shut down three Eastern U.S. plants for security reasons. Part shortages caused delays and forced shifts to be cancelled at four other plants.

But Bo Andersson,General Motors' executive in charge of worldwide purchasing, praised GM's suppliers for their efforts to maintain production.

"GM has been fortunate to keep on schedule," Andersson said. "And our suppliers have been doing extraordinary things to keep us on schedule."

He praised interior supplier Lear Corp., for example, for shipping seats by barge across the Detroit River to avoid delays at bridges and tunnels.

In a presentation Wednesday to the Sales and Marketing Executives of Detroit, Andersson said GM lost 7,000 units of production in September. That was just 2 percent of the month's total projected output.

He declined to make any long-term predictions about the fallout of the attacks, but he said there is more uncertainty. In the short-term, GM will make small adjustments to the production schedule for the fourth quarter.

Andersson also reflected on GM's new vice chairman of product development, Robert Lutz.

"He has been very active in his first four weeks," Andersson said. "He is very open and speaks his mind, and he has no problem making decisions.''

GM has some winning truck products, but it is not as strong in cars, according to Andersson. GM is banking on the addition of the no-nonsense Lutz to help drive product innovations and change its image.

"Some of our designs have been weak because we didn't want to take risks," Andersson said.

Lutz, who has spent much of his time in GM's design studios, will be vital in creating more desirable vehicles.

Said Andersson: "He is fully aware that sometimes he makes the wrong decisions, but in the GM culture, the wrong decision is better than no decisions."

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