General Motors (GM), one of the world's largest auto manufacturers, makes cars and trucks, with well known brands such as Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC. GM also builds cars through its GM Daewoo, Opel, Vauxhall, and Holden units. The company operates through five business segments: GM North America, GM Europe, GM International Operations, and GM South America. Financing activities are primarily conducted by General Motors Financial Company. In early 2017, GM agreed to sell its Opel business to France-based PSA Group, one of the largest carmakers in Europe.
The company operates through four automotive segments. GM North America (GMNA) generates 71% of its total sales and has operations in Canada, Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the US. GM International Operations (GMIO) operates in the Asia/Pacific, Eastern Europe, and Africa and generates 12% of sales. GM Europe (GME), 14% of sales, caters to Europe and Russia. GM South America (GMSA), 5% of sales, has operations in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
Financial services unit GM Financial accounts for the remainder of revenues.
GM has more than 100 locations in the US (excluding automotive financing operations and dealerships) and 15 locations in Canada. It has assembly, manufacturing, distribution, office, or warehousing operations in 60 other countries.
GM Financial has 46 facilities, of which 22 are located in the US. Its major facilities outside the US are in Canada, China, Germany, the UK, Brazil, Mexico, and Spain. The US generated around 70% of its total sales in 2015.
Sales and Marketing
The company sells cars and trucks to fleet customers, including daily rental car companies, commercial fleet customers, leasing companies and governments. GM markets its vehicles worldwide primarily through a network of independent distributors, dealers, and authorized sales, service, and parts outlets with a network of over 20,700 dealerships. It spends about $5 billion each year on advertising.
GM's revenues decreased 2% from $156 billion in 2014 to $152 billion in 2015 mainly due to decreased sales from GM South America (40%), International (12%), and GM Europe (16%), partially offset by increased sales from GM North America (5). In addition, GM Financial's sales surged by 33% during 2015.
GM South America sales decreased in 2015 due to diminished wholesale volumes associated with lower demand for the Chevrolet Celta, Onix, and Prisma small vehicles and Cobalt sedan in Brazil. The segment also experienced decreases across the portfolio primarily in Chile and Colombia caused by difficult economic conditions.
GM Europe sales decreased due to diminished net wholesale volumes associated with decreases across the Russian portfolio and lower demand for the Zafira multipurpose vehicle across the region.
In 2015 GM's net income skyrocketed by almost 150% to peak at $9.7 billion. The impressive net income growth was due to decreased automotive costs coupled with additional income tax benefits. That year GM's operating cash flow increased by 19% compared to 2014, primarily due to a spike in leased vehicle income, partially offset by increased operating expenses and interest expense.
The company's strategic plan includes several major initiatives to help to achieve 9-10% margins by the early 2020s. The initiatives include a strong product pipeline to retain customers; leading the industry in quality and safety; taking a lead in product design, with light-weight and mixed material body structures and in leading edge technology; growing its brands (especially the Cadillac brand); and to continuing to develop GM Financial as its captive automotive financing company.
Adhering to this strategy, in early 2017 GM agreed to sell its Opel business to European carmaker PSA Group for about $2.2 billion. The significant move of exiting a business it has controlled for nearly 90 years has followed unfruitful efforts since 1999 to make the Opel/Vauxhall subsidiary profitable again. The company has lost nearly $20 billion in Europe during that time.
Like most auto makers, GM is focusing on its growth in China. It aims to increase the number of nameplates under the Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands in China and continue to grow its business under the Baojun, Jiefang, and Wuling brands.
GM's efforts to improve its products include developing energy-saving models, such as the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car powered by a lithium-ion battery, introduced in late 2010. In 2015, the auto maker introduced the second-generation Chevrolet Volt. It also introduced the Chevrolet Bolt EV concept at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and the Cadillac CT6 PHEV at the 2015 Shanghai Auto Show.
The company is also aiming to redefine personal mobility with a new car-sharing service called Maven, which combines its multiple car-sharing programs under a single brand and would expand its offerings to multiple cities and communities across the US. Maven gives customers access to highly personalized, on-demand mobility services.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Growing its financial services operations, in 2015 GM Financial acquired Ally Financial's 40% stake in SAIC-GMAC in China for $1 billion.
In the early years of the auto industry, hundreds of carmakers each produced a few models. William Durant, who bought a failing Buick Motors in 1904, reasoned that manufacturers could benefit from banding together and formed the General Motors Company in Flint, Michigan, in 1908.
The auto giant went through a six-week period of bankruptcy protection in 2009. GM was split into two companies when it emerged from Chapter 11 -- General Motors and Motors Liquidation (the name for leftover assets). In 2011 Motors Liquidation sold the majority of its assets, which encompassed almost 90 industrial sites in 14 states, which cleared the way for GM bondholders to receive stock in the new company.