The pressure is on Ron Zarrella, president of General Motors North America, to increase GM's market share. Zarrella talked with Staff Reporter Joe Miller at the North American International Auto Show on Monday, Jan. 10. The following are edited excerpts.
GM in the U.S. finished 1999 below 30 percent market share, and there has been speculation that you'll end up the scapegoat.
I think the press is dramatically over-trained on our market-share performance. We're going to have a record financial year this year (1999). We'll make twice the amount of money we've ever made in North America. That's partially the result of an extremely strong market. We stabilized our market share in 1999, where Chrysler and Ford both dropped share.
If the U.S. new-vehicle market drops again, is that profitability sustainable?
It depends on how far down it drops. The market will be smaller than it was (in 1999). Our production volume will be smaller this year than last. But we get a real strong mix. We have a full year of full-sized pickup trucks. We will make more large sport- utilities than we did last year. And we get full-year volume on some profitable cars we introduced in 1999.
Will GM convert its car assembly plant in Oklahoma City to trucks? Does GM need more truck plants?
Oklahoma City is not approved by our board yet. We will need to shift capacity from cars to trucks. But you get into this discussion of what are cars and what are trucks. There's some speculation that because we're adding plants we're dramatically increasing our capacity. We're not doing that at all.
Will GM shut down any North America plants in two years?
We won't shut down anything in two years.
How about beyond two years?
I can't say.
There has been speculation for years that Oldsmobile would
be dropped, and lately Saturn hasn't been living up to expectations. Does GM have too many divisions?
We intend to continue to have the broadest coverage of the market. We've spent a lot of time, a lot of thinking and a lot of resources differentiating our brands.
In fact, five years ago we had over 130 different models in our product lineup.
Today we have about 82. Frankly, we have a few too many cars in the compact and mid-sized segments. So you will see fewer of those in time.