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GM exec: Mending fences at top of to-do list Relationship fixes cited

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GM exec: Mending fences at top of to-do list

Relationship fixes cited



CHICAGO -- Rebuilding relationships with customers and dealers tops General Motors' to-do list for 2010, said Mark Reuss, president of the automaker's North American operations.

"We're changing some of the things GM was known for ... and not liked for," Reuss said. "We have the opportunity to build an entirely new company from scratch" following GM's 2009 bankruptcy reorganization.

"GM is once again an honest-to-goodness car company" after shedding the liabilities and uncompetitive cost structure that crippled it for years, he said. "The chains that held us down for years have been broken. We still have a way to go, but we're making rapid progress."

Reuss made his comments in a speech Wednesday at the Chicago Auto Show and a dinner Tuesday night with reporters.

Reuss cited three immediate goals:

• Actively reach out to customers.

• Repair strained relationships with GM's dealers.

• Improve the quality of GM's vehicles.

GM is using Twitter and Facebook to find unhappy customers, figure out what bugs them and fix it, Reuss said.

"We need to satisfy our customers one by one," he said, citing several examples in which engineers got directly involved to solve customer complaints.

The automaker has created a mobile-phone application that lets employees see and respond to complaints.

"It's like we've had a well of desire to help our customers," Reuss said. "More employees are participating daily."

Many GM dealers remain angry about the process the automaker used to close hundreds of sales outlets.

"My No. 1 priority is to rebuild our dealer relationships," Reuss said. "They are our most important interface with the customer. This business is won or lost at the dealerships. We know that."

Reuss also plans to continue a quality initiative he began when he was in charge of GM engineering.

"We are creating a culture that celebrates and rewards employees who find problems and fix them," as opposed to GM's previous habit of sweeping defects under the carpet so nobody would be blamed for them.

"We have given customers reasons to doubt that our quality is good enough," Reuss said. To undo that damage, he added, "We must blow away the competition."



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