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GM CEO Barra Talks about Known and Unknow for 2023


General Motors’ top executive Mary Barra offered that she believes she has a handle some things for next year while she’s still awaiting clarity on others as the start of 2023 draws near.

Barra two at Milken 2022
GM CEO Mary Barra confirmed the company’s plans to invest $35 billion in its electrification plans.

The company’s CEO met with journalists at the Automotive Press Association’s fireside chat in Detroit Thursday. It marked the second year in a row she’s spoken at the event, and she offered an optimistic few of the next 12 months.

Although sales have been tough for the industry this year, expected to come in somewhere around the 14 million-unit range, Barra believes they’ll jump in 2023 to 15 million units, which echoes a similar prediction offered by Toyota’s Jack Hollis last week.

“We are seeing strong demand for our vehicles,” Barra said, adding that new vehicle prices are coming down a bit, but they’re still “well ahead of where we were pre-COVID. Incentives remain low.” 

She noted the company will take a conservative approach to costs and expenditures due to the uncertainty of the economy. Some of those potential issues are simply extensions of problems currently plaguing the industry, including the global supply chain, inflation and the war in Ukraine.

Union talks

UAW President Ray Curry
Barra said the company is still facing a few unknowns heading into 2023, including whether or not Ray Curry will be leading the UAW.

GM, as well as Ford and Stellantis, are set to enter negotiations with the UAW this year. However, a new era is dawning at the union, led by the election of several new reformer candidates who planning to demand a lot from the automakers.

Complicating the effort is that the election process isn’t done as current president Ray Curry is in a runoff for his job with Shawn Fain. The reform candidates fared well in the wake of the scandal that enveloped the union taking nearly half of the offices they ran for.

They’re going to be looking for higher wages, an end to the tiered wage structure for new employs as well as other concessions. In addition to the talks, GM officials may be facing another union local as the auto company’s electric battery operations are ramping up — and votes by workers to have union representation will take place.

Barra diplomatically offered her positive feelings about the UAW, noting that her  father was a tool-and-die maker at a GM plant in Pontiac, Michigan. 

General Motors announced Monday, Nov. 9, 2020 it will hire 3,000 new employees across engineering, design and IT to help transform the future of product development and software as a service. GM will offer more remote opportunities than ever before as development of autonomous and electric vehicles and advanced platforms like the Ultium battery system continue at a fast pace. GM Software Test Engineer Madhura Ambre performs connectivity stress tests Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2019 at the GM Infotainment Lab in Warren, Michigan. This facility now follows GM-mandated guidelines to help protect against the spread of COVID-19, including mandatory use of face masks and social distancing. (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)
GM’s salaried workers will be heading back to their work spaces at the end of January.

“We’re a company that’s worked with unions around the world for many years, so we welcome Ultium having union representation,” Barra said. “We can work together on things like health and safety, quality training. I always say my teeth are straight because my dad worked for General Motors.”

Returning to work

She also took time to discuss the company’s push to bring back its salaried workers into their offices early next year — after more than 18 months of working from home and some pushback from them the first time the company tried to bring them in earlier this fall.

While there is plenty of evidence showing workers are just as productive working home, Barra noted the company is successful when it’s an innovative place and often that comes from proximity.

“It’s an energy and a vibe. A culture needs to be nurished, and you can’t do that if you’re not in person,” Barra said, according to the Detroit Free Press. “There are a whole bunch of other GM workers who went back to work shortly after COVID already. We think we can do better” in person, noting there are 30,000 parts in a vehicle and “you can’t do that on Zoom.”


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