I used to be Dragoneye...
Drives: 2014 Camaro 1LE
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Buffalo, NY
Camaro5 NYIAS Interview Series (4/7): Mary Barra on the Camaro
Interview 4/7...Feel free to ask any questions - and I may be able to elaborate.
In the interest of full-disclosure, this was a group interview, and I picked answers that were relevant for our audience here on Camaro5. So not all of these questions were my own. Mrs. Barra was exceptionally passionate about her work; it was really cool to see.
Full interview list:
Interview 1: Mark Stielow
Interview with Mary Barra – GM Senior Vice President, Global Product Development
by J. Bella, Camaro5.com
Are there plans to expand Camaro sales in Europe?
Well, I think we need to look at where it makes sense to sell the Camaro. Obviously, the driving conditions are different in the different markets…The Camaro has a wonderful halo effect. It has a draw and brings people in because of the design, the heritage, and the performance. You know, we’re always looking for new markets to sell all of our products, but specifically the Camaro, and the Corvette, which has that effect, too. I wouldn’t shut any doors down, but it’s got to make sense.
What has changed in the development process over the past few years?
I think there’s a lot that we kept. One of the things that Bob Lutz did that was important was having a passionate focus on design. So when you ask what’s changed, I think it’s important to also talk about what’s been preserved and took to the next level is the importance of design. So what has changed, with this importance on design, is to have much more interaction, collaboration, and partnership with the engineering teams and the designers. This way, you can provide more beauty as well as functionality if you do develop vehicles in connection.
What kind of research goes into your cars that might compete with each other?
We do quite a bit of research to understand specific customers. And when you get into the compact and midsized sedans, there are a variety of people. When you look at a Camaro or Corvette customer or even a full-size truck customer, versus the wider range of people who may be interested in an SS, an Impala, Malibu, or Cruze, but we do look at that, and we look at the unique value proposition that a vehicle brings. Some people may be shopping “this one”, or “this one”, or one of our cars versus a competitor’s vehicle. We do look at that, because if you put two vehicles too closely on top of each other, then we’re just competing with ourselves. And at General Motors it’s really hard to make sure we’re not doing that, any longer. So we look at the specific purpose in the portfolio and in the Chevy showroom, or the Cadillac showroom that vehicle’s going to bring.
What was your first car?
It was interesting you ask. Do you want to know my first car, or the first car I put a deposit down on? My Dad worked for Pontiac for years, so I grew up as a Pontiac family. So the first car my Dad and I went to the dealership and put a deposit down on was a Firebird. Then we went home and told my Mom. The practicality won, and so my first car was a Chevette. But, then between my junior and senior year, I bought a Fiero. Later my husband and I have owned a series of Camaros and Corvettes, along with many others.
Differentiation between the brands is important, if you had to describe the character of the different brands in just a few words how would you?
Okay, so Cadillac? American Luxury, top of the pack. You know, Cadillac is “Standard of the World”, we still use that. It’s American luxury, and we’re not going to apologize for it. Buick, is understated luxury, and refinement. Chevrolet, I’m really excited about “Find new Roads”, because I think it really captures the spirit of Chevy. Having the right technology, the right quality, the right value, and that ingenuity and cleverness. GMC is professional grade, and it distinguishes. When you talk about the brands in the US, I think there’s room, and there’s a place, and when the diverse customers look at our car offerings, I’m really comfortable that we’ve honed what each of the different brands means.
What are your feelings on being the #1 volume automaker?
It’s very close. We are dedicated to producing great cars, trucks, and crossovers. And when we compete in a segment we want to lead and win in that segment. And we’ve stayed true to that. There’s a lot you can do to play games and gain market share that’s not in the best interests of the company, or the consumer. We want to grow, don’t get me wrong, but it needs to be the right growth and the right way. At the end of the day, great products are going to help us accomplish that, and we’ll be in the right spot. We as a company, plan on growing and are executing products that are growing.
Is there a push to become the first to do things in a segment, rather than succeed “from behind”?
Absolutely, and I think that’s every OEM’s goal. Everyone’s trying to do that in every segment and unseat somebody. And we think we did that with the Volt; we’re the only extended-range electric vehicles. And I would hold the Corvette in that space; it is American luxury, and when you all have the opportunity to drive that vehicle, it’s just stunning in every way it was designed. That’s how you “win”. For example, when we decided to enter the entry-lux segment, I’m very proud of the way we entered that segment. We didn’t have to make any excuses, I mean: we’re there. All of the media and automotive analysts who’ve driven the ATS, I mean, it’s winning! I just read an article the other day that said “this car doesn’t measure up to the ATS in *this* aspect”. So I think it’s about in every segment we’re going to compete in, we want to lead.
(Chief Engineer of Z/28)
Interview 2: John Fitzpatrick
(Marketing Manager for Chevrolet Performance Cars)
Interview 3: Helen Emsley
(Director of Interior Design for Performance Cars)
Interview 4: Mary Barra
(GM Senior Vice President, Global Product Development)
Interview 5: Russ Clark
(Director of Marketing, Performance Cars)
Interview 6: Tom Peters
(Director, Exterior Design)
Interview 7: Ed Welburn
(Vice President of Global Design)