FLINT, MI – Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America and soon-to-be car czar as head of global product development at the automaker, expects to hit the ground running after beginning in 2014 what he considers his “dream job.”
“For the first time in my career, I don’t have to go in and reorganize,” he tells WardsAuto. “We’ve got the best product development organization in the world, and you see it in the new cars and trucks we’re putting out there.”
Reuss shifts on Jan. 15 from running GM’s North American operations, where he managed sales, production and dealer relations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, to executive vice president-Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain. He’ll make the call on which products and powertrains GM will market across 11 brands in more than 120 countries, as well as oversee an annual purchasing budget of $75 billion and a supply chain consisting of thousands of parts makers worldwide.
Reuss, 50, succeeds Mary Barra in the role, a job industry insiders consider one of the most coveted in the business and nicknamed “car czar” since the position was created for Bob Lutz in 2001.
Barra will become GM’s first female CEO on Jan. 15 after restructuring a unit current GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson called “chaotic” before her appointment. The work performed by Barra, which Akerson credits for improving GM quality and customer satisfaction, as well as streamlining the unit’s command structure and yielding acclaimed new products such as the Chevrolet Silverado, Chevrolet Impala and Cadillac CTS, should give Reuss flexibility to immediately focus on key agenda items such as consolidating global platforms and powertrains.
“I’m accelerating the progress,” he says, “getting things on the common platforms we’ve designed, getting the right number of speeds in our transmissions, the right powertrains and the right fuel economy.”
GM expects its 3-year-old global platform consolidation plan to reduce the architectures underpinning its vehicles to 17 in 2018 from 30 in 2010. The plan would move 96% of GM’s forecasted global production volume to core platforms, from 39% in 2010.
The automaker currently uses core architectures for 71% of its global vehicles. GM also will move regional architectures from 22 today to four in 2018.
Regional architectures are older platforms generally used in emerging markets that are more price-sensitive, where the technology and capabilities are competitive and a cost advantage exists.
GM also will soon introduce a modular approach to future-vehicle architectures, where entire segments of differently sized vehicles can be used interchangeably. GM thinks the approach will give it the ability to react to changes in consumer preferences more quickly and shorten vehicle development times. It also would go a long way in helping GM meet stringent future global fuel-economy and emissions standards, and save millions of dollars in product-development costs.
Engine architectures are seen going from about 15 today to 10 in 2018.
“This is a journey,” Reuss says of the task ahead. “That’s my focus. I love it. I’m an engineer. It’s what I do.”
He also says he has no plans to leave the automaker. Reuss was a candidate for the CEO job that went to Barra.
“I plan to stay at GM,” he says. “Hopefully, they’ll employ me for a long time.”
Reuss’ remarks come after announcing a $600 million investment at a light-truck assembly plant here, near where GM was founded and just a few city blocks from where he started his lifelong career at the automaker’s former Buick City complex.
“My heart is here,” he says. “This place is the beginning of General Motors. It is emotional.”
The investment caps what Reuss calls an “historic” year for GM in the U.S., a year highlighted by Barra’s appointment and the federal government’s divestiture of the stake it gained in the automaker with the 2009 bailout and bankruptcy backing.
GM also regained important new investment-grade status from Wall Street rating firms and the value of its stock eclipsed $40 per share, far beyond the $33 per share watermark established in November 2010 when the automaker went public again.
GMNA, meanwhile, saw its own gains in 2013, as revenue through the third quarter grew 4.3% to $69.98 billion from $67.07 billion in like-2012. Earnings before interest and taxes increased 6.3% to $5.58 billion from $5.25 billion. And while unit sales in the U.S. rose 9.1% to 2.4 million from 2.2 million, market share remained flat at 18.0%.
“It’s been a lot of hard work and it’s starting to pay off,” Reuss says. “We’re not done. We’ve got to keep doing it, keep earning it. I feel better about the company than I have in my whole career.”