In North America, "the fundamentals are in really good shape. When we emerge more fully from the crisis, we're going to have demonstrated that," Carlisle told Automotive News last week. "Yet, we need to have this constancy and this drive towards the future that we've talked about in terms of electrification."
Carlisle's experience in engineering, product planning, sales and marketing make him the right choice for the job, said Rory Harvey, Cadillac's vice president of North American sales, service and marketing. Harvey will lead Cadillac's global operations after Carlisle moves to his new post.
"He just brings an overall holistic oversight of the business," Harvey said. "He has the ability to put healthy tension into the system and to be able to make sure that we're progressive and aggressive."
Carlisle will be expected to accelerate GM's path toward electrification. GM has pledged $20 billion for EVs and autonomous vehicles through 2025 and plans to launch 20 EVs globally by 2023.
"We don't know how long the transition will take, so we're in a good spot to continue to grow the business and fund the business with our internal-combustion portfolio while we work on ramping up on the battery-electric side," Carlisle said.
Under Carlisle, GM will change the way it manages its North American brands. Currently, the North American president oversees Chevrolet, Buick and GMC while Cadillac has a separate leader. Carlisle will oversee all four.
"With this shift to electric, there's an even greater need to find synergy opportunities, but there's no less of a need to provide the autonomy and do the right thing from a brand point of view," he said.
While Carlisle was president of GM Canada, retail sales grew 21 percent from 2015 to 2017. And by 2017, GM was Canada's top-selling automaker on a retail basis.
Carlisle's promotion is "nothing but positive news for Canada," said Jerry Dias, president of the Canadian union Unifor, which must negotiate new contracts with the Detroit 3 this year. "Steve understands Canada, the Canadian market."
Carlisle began his GM career in 1982 as an industrial engineering co-op student at Oshawa Truck Assembly, which has since closed. He went on to hold senior leadership positions, including vice president of global product planning and program management, vice president of U.S. sales operations and president of Southeast Asia operations.
As the market and industry change, "we're going to have to be agile," Carlisle said. "We're going to have to look for signposts. We're going have to change when we need to change."