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GM claims it will overtake Ford as UK leader

Top European executives at Detroit giant General Motors are so confident of their new strategy that they have claimed they will overtake Ford as the UK's market leader in new car sales 'within three years'. While Ford continues to see its future in offering mass market models, GM is beginning a two-pronged strategy to drive their range upmarket while saving money by sharing costs with other companies.

Top European executives at Detroit giant General Motors are so confident of their new strategy that they have claimed they will overtake Ford as the UK's market leader in new car sales 'within three years'. While Ford continues to see its future in offering mass market models, GM is beginning a two-pronged strategy to drive their range upmarket while saving money by sharing costs with other companies. This is apparent in the recently announced joint venture to buy components with Peugeot Citroen. With Ford stripping out the complexity of its manufacturing base, GM Europe boss Steve Girsky sees the future in co-operation with other brands. "It's win-win for both of us," he says, "The next step will be joint development of platforms and basic body structures."

The second part of GM's expansion strategy is encapsulated in Girsky's view that, "If you make only volume cars you die. Only premium cars can make money." Along with more upmarket models, Girsky cites the need to make sure more standard cars have a range of attractive options available, such as enhanced entertainment and communications capabilities. He says: "The young man of today does not give a fig for the car or its badge. What he will demand is content - Wi-Fi and a library of audio books." He gives the example of the new Polish-built Cascada model as a range that is moving up the value chain, saying: "The new Cascada is built in Poland in new facilities and is branded both Vauxhall and Opel. Those two brands have to me 'moved upwards' to ensure that there is room for Chevrolet underneath."

GM though has always had to contend with the added complexity and expense, of managing multiple brands opposed to Ford's one and in Europe this is highlighted with the presence of Vauxhall, Opel and now Chevrolet. It is clearly something that concerns Girsky who commented on the economic woes experienced by the two companies in recent years. "Ford lost the same money as we did and they have got a much simpler strategy with just one brand." Trying to restore the reputation of Opel while introducing Chevrolet to a sceptical European audience is not going to be simple but Girsky pointed to the investment in the high tech plant in Poland which makes the Cascada. This plant has been designed from scratch to produce quality cars which match the Germans for quality and is already matching western European plants for efficiency. Whether GM can match and overtake Ford in three years on the other hand remains to be seen.

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