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PHOTO CAPTION: Ed Welburn addresses Washington DC Auto Show

GM to Sell Volt in Every U.S. State by End of 2011

Ed Welburn notes that GM has 300,000 'handraisers' interested in the Volt, so it will accelerate its deployment plan to all interested Chevrolet dealers in the United States.

Published: 27-Jan-2011

Official Remarks Transcript

Thank you, and good morning, everyone.

Sometimes in life we sit back and ask ourselves, “Why am I here?”

Today, you’re probably sitting out there asking yourself, “Why is HE here?”

You expected Mark Reuss to be up here. But due to the most recent “storm of the century,” Mark was grounded back in Detroit.

So, since I was already in town safe and sound, I’m going to pinch-hit for him today.

Fortunately, Mark and I feel the same way about a lot of the things, and one of them is the future of GM.

I’m not going to stand up here and make a bunch of bold predictions… because, as Yogi Berra once said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”

I can’t tell you what’s going to happen… Yesterday I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be speaking to you today!

But I can tell you how GM is going to be ready when whatever happens does happen.

And I can offer you proof, not predictions.

That’s because at GM, we’ve built a new company that’s based on speed and agility… on making quick, informed decisions about the best course of action and moving on them immediately.

That’s true at GM Global Design, and I’ve seen enough to know that it’s true in the other functions of the company as well.

And we’re not the only ones who think so. Here’s a quote from a column about the Detroit auto show by Dan Neil in The Wall Street Journal earlier this month:

“The Detroit bailout was the right thing to do: Grit your teeth if you must. Two years later, GM is profitable, right-sized, globally competitive and an engine of automotive change—as evidenced by the Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle, named the North American Car of the Year.”

When I look at GM today, I see four very clear characteristics that we’re committed to as a company.

These are in no particular order, by the way.

In fact they might actually be in reverse order.

That’s my way of getting you to stick around till the end….

First, we are committed to keeping our financial house in order.

GM is making money… and Dan Akerson and Chris Liddell assure me that we plan to keep it that way.

We got up from the canvas battered, bruised, and thrilled to be here.

Now we find ourselves leaner, stronger and hungrier, and we plan to stand on our own two feet.

Like other automakers, we applied for Department of Energy low-interest loans to develop future advanced technology vehicles.

Our loan application was for $14.4 billion.

Given our improved situation, GM is withdrawing the application and does not intend to access the Department of Energy funds.

This move is consistent with our goal to have minimal debt on our balance sheet.

It's another sign we’re confident in our progress and strong global business performance.

Let me stress that this decision will not affect our aggressive investment in new products and technology and, of course, outstanding design!

Like most Americans, we believe that a self-sufficient, globally relevant GM is the best solution.

We’re a new company, on a new, level playing field in this industry.

We now have a competitive cost structure, improved capacity utilization, leaner inventories, improving brand equity, and customers willing to pay higher prices for our products… all of which leads to improved earnings and cash flow.

We have the right number of brands in the U.S. now.

In 2010, we sold more vehicles with four brands than we did the year before with eight brands.

We have the right number of U.S. dealers now.

By the fourth quarter of 2010, we reduced our number of dealers by nearly 900.

With 900 fewer dealers, we sold 120,000 more cars and trucks than we did in the first quarter of 2010.

With 900 fewer dealers, our retail share went up a full point from 16.8 to 17.8.

Our dealers were more profitable, and had higher throughput, or more sales per store.

This is all good news for our North American operations.

And globally, we’re well positioned to take advantage of the huge growth potential in emerging markets… like China, India and Brazil.

*****

Let me move on to the second striking characteristic about today’s GM…

We are committed to improving fuel economy and providing fuel-efficient choices for our customers…

Obviously, this is an important point.

And the proof is in the numbers.

Chevrolet Cruze Eco… 42 mpg highway.
Chevrolet Sonic… unofficial, but we expect it to reach 40 mpg highway.
Buick Verano… better than 30 mpg highway.
Buick LaCrosse eAssist… 37 mpg, in a premium luxury flagship sedan for about $30,000.
If fuel prices continue to rise, we’re ready.

But let me make one important point about this… these are not vehicles customers will have to “settle for.”

Nor do we need to have people held hostage by high gas prices to buy them.

They’re not stripped out econoboxes where the only feature is mileage. Anybody looking for great value need look no further.

Cruze, which earned the highest-possible safety rating from NHTSA, five stars in each of its individual crash impact conditions, is a great example of our reinvigorated small car lineup.

So is Sonic, which we just unveiled at the Detroit show.

It’s stylish, roomier in the back seat than the Ford Fiesta, has 20 horsepower more than Honda Fit, and the four-door version has best-in-class trunk capacity.

Both Cruze and Sonic are loaded with the kind of features and connectivity that customers demand from cars that cost far more.

Same goes for the Buick Verano… a luxury compact sedan that will raise the growing profile of Buick even further.

And by the way, all three of these cars? Built right here in the United States.

In fact, Sonic is the only small car built in America by any automotive manufacturer.

Furthermore, if customers love these small cars but are forced to say, “No, thanks, we need more space, more versatility,” we have the perfect solution in our crossovers like the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and Equinox, GMC Acadia and Terrain.

Sales of these crossovers were up 50% in 2010. We sold more than half a million of them.

That puts us in even better shape if fuel prices cause customers to turn from trucks and SUVs; Equinox gets better mileage than any vehicle in its class, for example.

Of course, this conversation leads me from the gas-friendly to the potentially gas-free, the Chevrolet Volt.

Which, in turn, brings me to number three:

*****

GM is committed to leading-edge technology, on both sides of the dashboard.

It doesn’t get any more leading-edge than Volt.

Our friends in the press agree, as evidenced by:

North American Car of the Year
Motor Trend Car of the Year
Automobile Magazine Car of the Year
Green Car Journal Car of the Year
Top honors from Car And Driver, Popular Mechanics and Popular Science.
I’m especially gratified at the great reception for Volt here in Washington, one of our early launch markets.

We’ve seen one Volt buyer bring a BMW 5-Series in trade.

We’ve seen another customer, an 84-year-old man, come to northern Virginia from North Carolina because he simply had to have a Volt.

We’ve seen one of our dealerships, Criswell Chevrolet, sell out its entire allotment of 34 Volts… before production even began.

We’ve seen this kind of response everywhere we’ve launched the Volt, and everywhere we haven’t!

We have 300,000 hand-raisers registered on our web site to show their interest in the Volt.

And so, we’re accelerating our launch plan to have Volt in all participating Chevrolet dealerships, in every single state in the union, by the end of this year.

This accelerated launch plan, which had stretched into 2012, is the right thing to do for our customers.

We will continue to develop the Volt and its technology and explore ways to increase production.

And we’re going to move into some entirely new technology altogether.

Like the EN-V concept introduced at the Shanghai World Expo last year
And like the Cadillac ULC (Ultra Luxury Concept) revealed at the LA show and shown here today
And we’re investing in tomorrow, today.

Actually, yesterday… because that’s when GM Ventures announced a $7 million investment in Envia Systems, a California company with innovative new ways to develop lithium-ion batteries that store more energy, weigh less, and cost less.

We’re innovating inside our vehicles, too, developing new ways to connect customers to the kind of information and entertainment they need and want.

And we’re launching “OnStar for Everyone,” which will make all the features and benefits of OnStar available to anyone in any vehicle.

From our expanding connectivity, communications and safety features… to the advanced propulsion systems of tomorrow… to improving today’s internal combustion technology … GM intends to be the industry leader in technology.

And we’ll use our technological expertise to work with the government to meet future CAFE and emissions standards.

We plan to be collaborators, not opponents.

Collaboration--from all sides--was the winning approach that delivered today's strong, single national standard.

That's why we were encouraged to read the President's recent comments in the Journal that cited this approach as an example of careful, balanced rulemaking.

It also was good to see California earlier this week sign up to the same rulemaking timetable as the EPA and NHTSA.

With our industry and the economy in fragile recovery, now is not the time to abandon a formula that works.

We hope others--from California to environmental groups--will join us as they did last time so we can roll up our sleeves and get to work.

*****

The fourth and final ingredient in our recipe for success is the most important:

GM is committed to putting the customer first in everything we do.

This means, first and foremost, designing, building and selling the best cars and trucks in the world.

It also means proving to our customers and potential customers that we value what they value.

As an example, last November Chevrolet announced it will invest $40 million during the next few years in clean-energy projects that will reduce up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

The first of those projects we can announce will have a direct effect on people’s lives, for the better.

It’s an investment in energy efficiency in Maine low-income housing projects, beginning later this year.

It’s worth about 40,000 tons of carbon reduction – but, more than that, it’s a very real positive impact on people and their community.

There will be more examples of these projects to come.

So, that’s our story.

It’s told better than I could tell it by the cars and trucks you see on the floor at our display here.

They keep getting better, with more on the way, like the Sonic and Verano I mentioned, and the Buick Regal GS and the long-awaited Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

We’ve come a long way, but our work is far from done. Our competitors are not relaxing, and neither will we.

That’s what makes the future so exciting. The best car truly can win again… and we’re going to fight very hard to be the company that builds those cars.

Thanks very much for your attention.

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