Rick Wagoner, president of General Motors, has been spending a lot of time in Asia lately putting the final touches on a deal to buy 20 percent of Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and on partnerships with Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. GM also is negotiating the purchase of Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. in South Korea. Wagoner spoke with Staff Reporter Joe Miller at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit about GM's strategy in Asia.
When will we see GM's partnerships and acquisitions in Asia begin to influence the vehicles GM brings to shows such as this (one in Detroit)?
One of our strategies (in Japan) was to get better design and development capability in the region. Over here, our brands have pretty clear positioning. I don't really see a significant change in design needs because we have Asian partners. The prospects of technology sharing, product sharing - we play those out as we go.
Give me a brief explanation of what GM's Asian plan is.
What we're trying to do in Asia-Pacific is we'd like to grow. So the model is we need to develop more local production and design capability, and the most expedient way, in most cases, is to grow partnerships. China we did a little differently, but the rules were a little different. We relied heavily on a local existing company, and that has worked out very well.
How soon are we going to see an impact on GM's market share in Asia?
Well, we grew share in China this year by a point. I think it's just a matter of time as we roll this stuff out. We'll be cranking up the plant in Thailand this year. That's going to help. We've said we want to get to 10 percent (in Asia). We can do that.
How do the Honda and Toyota deals fit into this?
They are more global deals. Product sharing in one case (Toyota), components in the other case. And specific technology development in defined areas, generally around advanced propulsion systems with Toyota, and we're working on similar types of strategies with Honda.
You don't see those evolving into something that would give you more market share in Asia?
Nothing's on the board right now that would really be the same kind of thing with the others.
Do you see the manufacturing partnerships continuing with Toyota in California (New United Motor Manufacturing Inc.) and Suzuki Motor Corp. in Canada?
We really have had a strong commitment to NUMMI. We're always in discussion about the next round of product. CAMI, it's fair to say we're about at the stage of those product life cycles that we need to be deciding on next-generation products. Those discussions are ongoing. We'd like to keep that going and think Suzuki would like to, too.
Are you still looking for more partners in Asia?
We're still looking at the Daewoo situation in Korea. I don't think we need a lot more brands in the GM portfolio. We're constantly looking at who's out there and who might derive value from a relationship with GM and what value GM might derive. We're constantly looking, but I'd have to say, realistically, there's nothing hot, nothing I see developing in the near term.