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 and Holden units. The company operates through three business segments. GM North America and GM International handle the automotive end of the business while General Motors Financial Co. provides financing. Looking toward the future of transportation, the company is investing in developing electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles and it has established a ride-sharing service. GM sells about 9.6 million vehicles throughout the world. It’s biggest single market is the US, which accounts for about 30% of sales by volume.
GM operates through GM North America (GMNA), about 75% of revenue, GM International, about 15% of revenue, and GM Financial, about 10% of revenue.
GM Financial is an automotive finance company and global provider of retail loan and lease lending products and services. Additionally, GM Financial offers commercial products to dealers that include new and used vehicle inventory financing, inventory insurance, working capital, capital improvement loans, and storage center financing.
The company cut back its operations in Europe with the sale of its Opel and Vauxhuall businesses to France-based PSA Group for $2.2 billion in 2017.
GM has more than 100 locations engaged in manufacturing, assembly, distribution, warehousing, engineering and testing in the US. It has locations with similar functions more than 35 countries.
GM Financial has about 40 facilities, of which some 25 are in the US. Its major facilities outside the US are in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The US generates about three quarters of GM's overall revenue.
Sales and Marketing
GM sells cars and trucks directly to fleet customers, including daily rental car companies, commercial fleet customers, leasing companies and governments.
Consumers buy GM vehicles through a network of more than 12,500 independent distributors, dealers, and authorized sales, service, and parts outlets. GM is a constant presence on television and other media, spending about $5 billion a year on advertising.
Since hitting a post-recession high of nearly $156 billion in revenue in 2014, GM’s sales have fluctuated at lower levels. In 2017, revenue slipped 2.4% to $145.6 billion from $149.2 billion in 2016. Sales of mid-size and compact passenger cars fell in 2017 from 2016 and the company sold fewer vehicles to rental car agencies. Sales dropped 6.5% in GM’s North American unit, its largest, leading the automotive operations to an overall decline of about 5% despite higher revenue in its international unit. GM Financial’s revenue increased 35% in 2017 on a larger lease portfolio and increased finance charge income.
GM claimed a $3.8 billion net loss in 2017 compared to a $9.4 billion profit in 2016 due to charges related to the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the sale of the Opel/Vauxhaul business.
The automaker had $17.8 billion parked in cash and equivalents in 2017, $2.7 billion more than it had in 2016. Cash from operations generated $17.3 billion in 2017, while investing activities used $27.5 billion and financing activities provided $12.6 billion.
In late 2018, GM signaled a significant shift in its operations, announcing that it would stop production at five North American manufacturing plants in 2019. The company also said it would reorganize its global product development staffs and reduce the size of its salaried workforce. Other measures include increasing component sharing between vehicles, expanding use of virtual tools to reduce development time and costs, and integrating vehicle and propulsion engineering teams.
It said the moves would enable it to stay ahead of changing market conditions that have seen sales of compact and mid-sized cars decline as consumers prefer trucks and crossover vehicles. The changes were intended to provide financial flexibility to double investment in developing electric and autonomous vehicles.
In the electric car market, GM aims to launch at least 10 clean-energy vehicles in China by 2020; this includes its Cadillac CT6 plug-in, Buick Velite 5, and Baojun E100 models. GM's previous efforts to develop energy-saving models included the Chevrolet Volt, an electric car (with a backup gas tank) powered by a lithium-ion battery able to drive 38 miles on one charge, introduced in late 2010. In 2015, the auto maker introduced the second-generation Chevrolet Volt. It also launched the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which can drive 238 miles on a full charge.
Signaling the importance of the Cruise autonomous unit, GM named its corporate president to head it. Cruise works with Honda, which committed $2 billion to the venture, to develop autonomous vehicles and it has a significant investment from Softbank. It tests self-driving cars in California, Arizona, and Michigan.
To adapt to the changing transportation landscape, GM offers a car-sharing service called Maven. The service, which offers several car sharing services under one brand, is available in about 20 cities in the US, Canada, and Australia.
Geographically, GM will focuses on investing in China and the Americas. In China, it aims to increase the number of nameplates under the Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac brands and continue to grow its business under the Baojun, Jiefang, and Wuling brands. It has also singled out the luxury segment as a springboard for growth in China, buoyed by strong sales of Cadillac vehicles.
While it tries to increase its market share in China, GM has been caught in the crossfire of the trade battles between the US and China. In 2018, the company said tariffs on steel and other trade-related charges cost it about $1 billion.
Late in 2018, General Motors announced a massive layoff that includes idling five factories in North America and cutting roughly 14,000 jobs—roughly 10% of its workforce there. The layoffs were prompted by a slowdown in new car sales and increased trade tariffs. Plans to make smaller cars are also being scrapped as consumers are gravitating toward larger vehicles like SUVs and pickup trucks due to lower gas prices.
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.
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