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GM: 'We have to prove' recovery

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GM: 'We have to prove' recovery



General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre, the silver-haired Texan, has drawn the most attention in GM's fledgling turnaround, but company veterans such as Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman of global product operations, are crucial to rebuilding morale and jumpstarting a leaner and simpler company that appears hungry to recapture its glory days.

Stephens, who turns 61 next month, lacks the central casting aura of predecessor Bob Lutz, but his earnest engineering prowess connects with the rank-and-file people who shepherd GM's cars and trucks from computerized designs to the end of the assembly line.

During an employee car show at GM's Warren Tech Center on Wednesday, Stephens had three Corvettes of his own on display, along with a 1970 souped-up Buick Gran Sport and a 2001 Pontiac Trans Am.

"He's a real hot-rodder at heart," said GM retiree Ed Sobieski.

Mark Reuss, president of GM's North American operations, had a red-and-white two-tone, right-hand drive 1955 Holden Special sedan acquired during his 18-month stint leading GM's Australian division.

"We are well on our way (to recovery), but me telling you that is not enough," Reuss said. "We have to prove it more than anyone else does."

To keep its ambitious product plan on track, GM is focused more on retaining current workers, and attracting new ones than slashing jobs.

"There's not going to be floodgates opening up to just increase costs and go back to old times," said Terry Woychowski, vice president for global vehicle program management. "There's a lot of work. It's good to be needed."

The employee car show is an important symbol of better times for GM workers because GM, which filed for bankruptcy in June 2009, didn't hold the event last year after 19 uninterrupted years.

"We run so hard every day it's good to celebrate a little bit about the past," Stephens said. "We need to take time to remember the 'gotta-have cars' we grew up with."

These days, Stephens said he hears more complaints from people who can't get their new vehicles soon enough than problems about quality and reliability. "From a financial perspective, the progress is a little slower," Stephens said. "We just have to put numbers on the board."

Future lineup and sales highlights

During an employee car show celebration at GM's Warren Technical Center, GM Vice Chairman Tom Stephens and North American President Mark Reuss talked with the Detroit Free Press about its current and future product lineup. Here are some of the highlights:

• The company might reconsider its exodus from the minivan market.

"I still think there's a good market out there," Stephens said. "Now whether we're going to build one, I can't say. I would make it a global minivan that we could sell in China or other markets."

• After GM employees have logged more than 1 million miles testing the 2011 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric car, the automaker will offer it to potential consumers to put another 250,000 to 500,000 miles on the test fleet, said Reuss. The automaker wants to see how real people react to the battery pack's charging status, as well as the impact from different driving styles.

• A $350-a-month, 36-month lease on the Volt is also intended to bring customers into Chevrolet showrooms whom dealers can convert into Cruze buyers, Reuss said. The Cruze's base 1.4-liter turbocharged engine will be rated at 40 m.p.g. for highway driving.

• Product development, purchasing and powertrain operations are now all in the same building at the Tech Center, with all leaders reporting to Stephens.

• Stephens said he is looking for ways to expand global capacity for the Volt and its European counterpart, the Opel Ampera, if early demand exceeds forecasts. But no decision has been made.



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I sense a mazda 5 fighter coming....

Might also explain the opel looking crossover I saw too...

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I think it is interesting they are reconsidering the minivan exodus. I know why: That minivan at Buick china for one. You could do a minivan on the Traverse platform. If they did one Buick or Chevrolet would get the van. I noticed the recent ones from other automakers are quite luxurious..

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