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Mark Reuss: Pandemic Forces Warp Speed Changes at GM

By Crain’s Content Studio

Key Takeaways

  • The global auto industry is looking at a global transformation that won’t happen again in our lifetime.
  • GM’s heavy concentration of production in the American Midwest is a competitive advantage, Reuss said, citing new high models being made in Orion Township, and plants in Ohio and Spring Hill, Tenn.
  • To ease dependence on China for some critical components, GM is looking at a ranging of sourcing options, including harvesting rare earth materials out of U.S. lakebeds.
  • Don’t expect internal combustion engines to die off right away: a lot of working people still like their heavy-duty trucks

As the son of a former General Motors president who rose to the same title as his father, Lloyd, Mark Reuss never imagined he’d be directing the production of artificial breathing devices in Kokomo, Ind. Or masks and hand sanitizer in other plants – and be proud of that pivot.

Reuss took attendees of the Mackinac Policy Conference on a whirlwind tour Tuesday of the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic just as GM was launching a massive $35 billion shift to focus on electrification of its cars and trucks by 2025.

In a discussion with questions posed by Joe White, global auto industry editor of Reuters,

Reuss said GM has “hired more people in the second half of 2021 than in all of 2020,” due to rapid changes in the software and other changes driving the automaker’s effort “to make things people don’t even know they want yet.”

While GM is wrestling with global challenges such as chip shortages and low vaccination rates for workers at plants in Malaysia and Vietnam, the company’s latest pandemic response in its hometown of Detroit has been $50 million in grants announced this week to boost education and employment opportunities for Detroit residents.

He also noted that that throughout the pandemic, he and CEO Mary Barra and other GM executives have been visiting company plants far and wide to show employees that safety protocols have its plants safe. “We don’t want fear in our workplaces,” Reuss said.

General Motors sponsored the session.

This article was written by Crain’s Content Studio for the 2021 Mackinac Policy Conference.