Category: Automakers

Fritz Henderson: Chevrolet Is Our Base Brand

Video: Fritz Henderson: Chevrolet Is Our Base Brand
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Fritz Henderson: Chevrolet Is Our Base Brand
Fritz Henderson: Chevrolet Is Our Base Brand

Fritz Henderson, vice president of General Motors, and head of GM Europe. Born in 1958, graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in business administration, and also from Harvard Business School. He began his career at General Motors in 1984 as a Senior Analyst at the Finance Department in New York. From 1997 to 2000, he was Vice President of GM and Managing Director of GM Brazil, in 2000-2002. - President of GM Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, in 2002-2004 - President of GM Asia and the Pacific.

- If you don’t mind, I’ll start with how I imagine each of the brands of GM concern. At the mention of "Opel" in front of my eyes the German "Opel Cadet" - quality factor, quality. “Chevrolet” - this is first of all “Chevrolet Corvette”, “Hammer” - at the wheel I see a muscular dark-skinned military man. Further, SAAB is what is connected with aviation: with high reliability it started - flew over. And Voxhall is something hazy, like hazy Albion. You probably have other associations?

- Let me dwell on how we position our brands on the European and, accordingly, on the Russian markets. First of all, I will touch the Corvette. By the way, I just bought a new one. This is today the best American sports car, if you want - the face of the concern. The new model that we introduced in the States this year received the highest reviews worldwide. It is interesting that Corvette is positioned separately from others as an independent brand, at least in the USA. In Europe, we sell it as a premium car along with Hammer and Cadillac. The basis is our basic brand, which is most dynamically advancing in Europe, including Russia, - this is Chevrolet. This year, we expect a 24% increase in Russian sales, including here both those that are made in Togliatti and imports.

Everything is clear with Opel - it is a global European brand based on modern technologies. He steadily settled at the level of medium, mass vehicles, attracting the buyer. Above "Opel" we position SAAB. In it, you correctly noted, the aviation industry was reflected, where the company came from. Cars of this brand have excellent data in terms of control and a very high level of safety. Slightly higher than SAAB in Cadillac status and on a par with it are Hammer and Corvette. Voxhol, as you rightly noted, does not leave the UK. This is a purely English brand, and will remain so. I like the fact that you represent our brands in the same way as we do - this is very good.

“That was just my feeling.” Now I better understand how clearly everything is laid out on your shelves. And yet, maybe a little more about your personal emotions?

- Of course, I have favorites and favorite brands, but I head General Motors in Europe, and this obliges me to treat all his children with love and clearly represent the “audience” of each brand.

My family lives alternately in Miami, then in Zurich, where my office is. I drive SAAB in Switzerland, and in Miami I have four cars: Corvette, SAAB, Cadillac and Chevrolet. I am impressed that our brands meet different tastes and actually cover all the needs of the market. This is one of the privileges of the concern - it can offer its cars almost everywhere. For example, during June, Opel sales in Europe (including Voxhall) remained at about the same level as last year. If we take into account that at the same time sales of Chevrolet are actively growing, then in aggregate we note growth. This is an example of how the hierarchy of our brands in European markets is bearing fruit.

- A year ago, I read an interview with Rick Wagoner in Auto Zeitung, which dealt with the global strategy of GM. Honestly, I didn’t understand her completely. Could you explain …

- You are welcome. Moreover, the strategy has not changed - everything remains as Rick said a year ago. Our main task is to expand the range as much as possible at the lowest possible cost and to make brands unlike each other. Let's say our technical unit in Korea is mainly responsible for the development and sale of Chevrolet cars in the world. The development of Opel and SAAB are engaged in the technical centers of Europe. Cadillac is being developed in the United States - it is certainly an American car. But what’s interesting: the joint projects of Cadillac and SAAB, as well as SAAB and Opel, have already been outlined. Opel and Chevrolet have joint plans. At the same time, I want to emphasize that models and brands will be completely differentiated and each will remain in its place in the segment allocated to it. In this regard, I can note the high-profile recent premieres at GM: Spark at Chevrolet, Astra and Zafira at Opel. They are all completely different, despite the fact that some worked together.

- You have touched on a topic that is primarily of interest to our readers - new models. What can you expect from your company in the future?

- I will not look into the distant future, I will say about the machines that have already appeared in Europe and will soon come to Russia. Now we are presenting the Cadillac STS, including its all-wheel drive version, we are starting to sell Spark and SAAB sports coupe, Opel Zafira will appear in the fall. Russia is a very important market for General Motors and, naturally, an integral part of our strategy.

- What, in your opinion, can a GM car become a “breakthrough” for the Russian market?

- I have already said that recently Chevrolet sales have grown by 24%. I think the trend will continue, moreover, it will intensify: in terms of sales this is one of the most promising brands for GM and Russia. We also attribute Niva to our offspring, which is produced in a joint venture with AvtoVAZ and is very well sold in the Russian market. Of course, we add here other models, such as the Chevrolet Aveo.

- Now about the emotions that I feel when I see the Chevrolet Aveo. I like this car. And now I think, why are you behind in sales in our market, for example, from Hyundai by 12 thousand in the first half of the year? Although last year you were ahead of them.

- That's right. Hyundai is developing much faster than Chevrolet, and is one of the very serious competitors. In this regard, we have a lot of work to do, but in our field of vision is not only this competitor, but also Ford, Toyota and others. Of course, it is important to get around Hyundai, but I assume that our product is in the right segment, that we are developing our distribution network and offer market, competitive prices. Let's see how this process goes further. Sometimes, when you really strive to be the first by all means, you can forget about what you really need to do. And then the main components of a normal, harmonious business drop out. We do not want to allow this. I have enough worries with General Motors. Hyundai, of course, cares, but not to that extent.

- Don't you think that partnership with AvtoVAZ could spoil Chevrolet’s image?

- No, we do not consider our partnership from this point of view, because we are satisfied with the work with AvtoVAZ in the Russian market and the level of sales. We intend to expand our offer.

- And why then the lineup at the joint venture is growing so slowly? There are doubts whether there will be a Chevrolet Viva or not.

- There should be no doubt. We are going to sell this car. At the beginning of the year, forecasts were made and, probably, a bit overestimated the possibilities. But everything is ahead. You know: when a model enters the market, it takes some time to adapt to its conditions. Of course, we are monitoring this process and, in cooperation with AvtoVAZ, we will work to expand the lineup. But GM in Russia is not only working with AvtoVAZ, we have other brands, and we must take care of their development.

- We all waited for the joint venture to work in the motor industry. How relevant is it today? Or there were cooling between AvtoVAZ and General Motor?

- We have discussed the project repeatedly, but we still do not have a ready-made solution. Projects that affect engines and transmissions are the most global and multifaceted. Therefore, it takes time. We have a number of difficult questions before us: are there enough power and is there enough demand, how suitable is the engine for our machines, and so on. Honestly, I would like to answer these questions before the start of investment in the project, and not after. In the meantime, the project is being discussed.

- The money that you have invested in the joint venture is now paying off?

- All the investments that we have made so far have been rather modest. We did not invest any huge funds.

- In Russia, a government decree on the duty-free import of components for enterprises that organize the assembly of cars in Russia was issued. Will such a decision help the development of component production here? How do you think?

- Firstly, we do not deal with components, and secondly, the resolution was adopted recently, and we are still considering it. I believe that certain benefits can be derived from this.

In the future, Russia is a good enough object for such a project.

- And yet, as a businessman, what will you answer to this question: will this help the production of components in Russia?

“A good question, but I think it should be addressed to your government, and not to me, to a greater extent.” From my point of view, this is a very useful undertaking and good support for investing in Russia. If you look not at us, but at our competitors, then their reaction was quite interested. Toyota announced its new plant, Ford announced that it would expand production. In principle, yes - the impact is positive.

- Last question. In a recent interview, you said that you need to make such cars to make them easier to produce.

- Yes. It's true. And we intend to continue to follow this rule - to design just such cars. I got acquainted with the production process of Logan and I can say: Renault makes a good machine that is easy to manufacture. We at the company have always adhered to the principle: machines need to be designed so that they can be manufactured as simply as possible. This, incidentally, applies to Chevrolet and Cadillac, that is, not only mass production. As for my vision of Chevrolet in Russia, I will add: cars of this brand should be, first of all, safe, affordable and, naturally, attractive in appearance.

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