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GM CEO Reveals New Customer-Focused Strategy

In the last two decades or more, the senior managers at General Motors Co. have had their focus on making products that fit the production capabilities of their plants, rather than highlighting the needs and wants of their customers. Then came the heavy debt load and ballooning costs of health care, as well as the surplus of well-paid workers—GM was in deep trouble.

But after this much talked about bankruptcy and the much needed restructuring that followed, GM was able to get rid of the many contractual and financial obligations that were weighing this automotive giant down.

Now, its new CEO Dan Akerson is initiating a major shift in focus: a customer-centric orientation.

The new direction means that GM is now free to design cars that appeal directly to customers. With its recent recovery in sales, the company can now introduce new models faster, as well as strengthen its overall advertising efforts and reinforce GM more as a marketing organization.

Joel Ewanick, GM’s first ever Global Chief Marketing Officer, claims that this shift in focus is a rare opportunity that GM is capitalizing on now that they have the momentum of having rising profits (after six years) and newly-introduced models that have become sales hits. They are hoping this momentum would drive them to build cars that people would want to buy, rather than cars that the company needs to sell. This new appointment is just one of Akerson’s strategies to reshuffle GM, which has had four CEOs in less than two years.

Ewanick has been known mostly for building Hyundai’s growing presence in the U.S., and his new task at GM is to elevate the consumer’s point of view into GM’s product planning and strategic decisions, gathering top management support along the process. Also part of this new job is to gather customer feedback through his staff and communicate these to the product team.

Some of the results of the focus group discussions initiated by Ewanick include bolder style and design improvements to grab the attention of the more modern buyers of today. Part of this will be adding more creature comforts and innovative parts throughout the car. Another is the direction to officially move Buick from the “near luxury” to being a luxury brand. Now, Buick is set to directly compete against Lexus, with an understated luxury approach.

Of course, even with all these improvements, GM still has a long way to go if they want to regain the leadership that they have held and

lost.

Still, it is worth seeing what this determined automaker has in store for the next couple of years, both in terms of its revised strategies as well as its new product offerings.

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