Girsky: By June, we'll know Volt's potential
Steve Girsky on the federal bailout: "Trust me, if the government didn't step in, it would have been a disaster here, not just in Michigan but in the rest of the country."
Photo credit: JOE WILSSENS
DETROIT -- General Motors Vice Chairman Steve Girsky is doing his best to help GM hit its sales targets for the Chevrolet Volt.
His wife, mother and aunt each drive one.
But Girsky, 49, said after a speech to the Automotive News World Congress that "it'll be May or June before we know whether this thing really has legs." He says most dealers still only have a couple of the plug-in hybrids.
GM sold 7,671 Volts in the United States in 2011, short of its 10,000-unit target. GM executives at the Detroit auto show downplayed their previous production projection of 60,000 Volts, 45,000 of which would be for the United States. Now, they said, GM would match output to demand.
Girsky said low availability continues to keep a lid on Volt sales. GM launched the car in seven markets in late 2010 but didn't roll it out nationally until late last year.
Still, the Volt is serving as a halo vehicle by drawing in a new breed of customers, Girsky said. He said the median income of Volt buyers is $175,000, and the car "is bringing more BMW customers to GM than Cadillac is."
Girsky has been a GM vice chairman since 2010. In November, GM CEO Dan Akerson made Girsky chairman of Opel's supervisory board, handing him the assignment of reviving a unit that has lost roughly $13 billion since 1999.
In his speech, Girsky, a former Wall Street analyst, touched on a range of issues:
-- On Europe: GM in November reversed an earlier prediction that its operations there would break even in 2011 for the first time in many years because of the sagging economy.
"We're committed to returning our European business to sustained profitability," Girsky said. He told reporters after his speech that Opel, GM's European unit, "is not for sale. We're developing plans to make Opel work."
-- On the government bailout of GM: "Trust me, if the government didn't step in, it would have been a disaster here, not just in Michigan but in the rest of the country."
-- On GM's relations with suppliers: Girsky, whose direct reports include GM purchasing chief Bob Socia, acknowledged that GM historically has pressed suppliers for the lowest possible price without much collaboration on technology.
"Socia spends a lot of time," Girsky said, "on 'What do we have to do to be a part of supplier relations, supplier innovations?' It's really a different model."
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