GM’s crystal ball includes owner-driver model, Barra says

GM-Lyft relationship? It’s complicated

DETROIT — General Motors is investing heavily in ride-sharing, electric vehicles, autonomy and other mobility services in order to put customers and consumers first, and dealers will have to adjust, GM CEO Mary Barra says.

During a media event here Monday, Barra told the Automotive Press Association that “there isn’t an industry right now that isn’t being transformed or disrupted by technology” and that dealers will have to adapt to the changes sweeping the industry.

While Barra said more product safety advances are just around the corner for GM cars and light trucks, many mobility advancements are further down the road. Ride-sharing, Barra says, accounts for only 0.01 percent of miles traveled, and the owner-driver model will remain GM’s core business for the foreseeable future.

“The transformative technologies — electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles — provide an opportunity to grow, again, where it makes good business sense. If you look at where ride-sharing is the most popular, it’s in dense, urban environments where we have low market share, so that’s where we see it as additive,” Barra said. “I do think that we’re going to be in the core business for a very, very long time, but we’re going to continue to be led by the customer.”

Barra’s comments counter some other bold predictions, notably those of Bob Lutz, GM’s retired head of product development, that ride-sharing, ride-hailing and autonomous vehicles threaten the industry’s traditional brand hierarchy and retail model, in part because consumers won’t be loyal to any one brand if they forgo vehicle ownership.

GM President Dan Ammann, in an interview with Automotive News last week, declined to comment on the affect that alternative mobility services would have on dealers, but said the automaker has received a 50 percent return on its original $500 million investment in ride-sharing company Lyft.

Barra, weighing in on the ongoing efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, praised the Trump’s administration’s desire to increase U.S. manufacturing employment.



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