GM Goal: Regain Former Customers

General Motors Corp.'s product lineup is stronger than it has been in years, and the auto maker has made great strides with quality control, but it's not enough to offer me too vehicles, says Troy Clarke, GM's president of North American operations.

General Motors Corp.'s product lineup is stronger than it has been in years, and the auto maker has made great strides with quality control, but it's not enough to offer “me too” vehicles, says Troy Clarke, GM's president of North American operations.

That means GM must do more than say its products are as good as their competitors, he tells a conference at the National Automobile Dealers Assn. convention. “We know we need to overachieve to regain customers who left us.”

The way to get them back is with great product, a superb dealer network and going one step further with customers, he says. “The days of compromising and of customers saying, ‘What were they thinking when they did that?’ are behind us.”

Despite significant downsizing in the face of fewer sales and smaller market share, GM has managed to keep employee morale high, Clarke says. “There is a sense of pride at GM these days, a belief in product.”

The auto maker has stabilized retail sales, increased transaction pries and boosted residual values by cutting back on customer incentives.

Clarke says GM “paid a price” for leading creative incentive programs, from hefty rebates to employee discount prices for consumers. Such discount schemes, as well as rental fleet sales, “became a bigger part of what we were selling,” he says, and consequently residual values dropped.

“We have to make this a profitable company,” he says. “We don't expect stockholders to be tolerant forever.”

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