General Motors advertising & marketing assignments

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General Motors has made a full recovery, more or less, from the unprecedented crisis which almost brought about the complete collapse of America's biggest car company in 2009. For much of the 20th century, the group was the undisputed leader in the global automobile market, with an extensive portfolio housing eight of America's most celebrated automobile marques as well as a large international footprint. As recently as 1980 almost one out of every two new cars sold in America were made by General Motors, and it enjoyed a similarly dominant position in other countries as well. Yet in the harsh environment of the 21st century, GM struggled to maintain its lead in the face of brutal competition, especially in the US, from manufacturers offering more flexible, less gas-hungry cars. A catastrophic fall in sales across the whole market during 2008 left the group poised on the brink of bankruptcy and it was overtaken for the first time in its history as the global #1 by rival Toyota (and then by Volkswagen as well). The following year, GM finally accepted defeat and filed for Chapter 11 protection. A new and much smaller GM emerged from bankruptcy having shed the bulk of its huge debt burden as well as half of its car brands. Its main surviving brands are Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. Only one major problem remained: its long-struggling business in Europe. It finally found a solution to that dilemma in 2017 with a deal to sell Opel and Vauxhall outright to French manufacturer PSA. It also pulled out of India and South Africa to concentrate on the Americas - primarily the US - and Asia - primarily China, which is also now its single biggest market by volumes. Another important focus for the future is its fledgling autonomous vehicle division GM Cruise, whose minority investors include Honda and several private equity funds. Shipments have fallen steadily over the past few years as GM exited different global markets. Total shipments in 2019 were 7.72m vehicles. Unlike rivals such as VW, Toyota or Ford, GM has no single major global brand. Chevrolet is its biggest at 3.88m vehicles, mostly sold in the Americas. Buick contributed a further 1.07m vehicles (the vast majority of them in China). Luxury brand Cadillac added 390k, and GMC light trucks added 672k (mostly in North America). Another 1.6m vehicles came from Wuling and Baojun, two made-for-China brands produced in a local joint venture with SAIC. Mary Barra was appointed as CEO of GM in 2016, the first woman to lead any of the world's automotive majors. The road has been far from smooth: notable speedbumps have included a massive vehicle recall in 2016 and a labour dispute in 2019 that closed all US factories for six weeks. The latter impacted on performance in 2019, along with continuing withdrawals from smaller global markets. Revenues fell 9% to $137.2bn, while net income fell 17% to $6.7bn.

Capsule checked 28th October 2018

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Who are the competitors of GM? See Cars Sector index for other companies

Advertising expenditure of GM? See ranking of Declared Advertising Costs

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Adbrands Account Assignments tracks account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets. See also


Historical profile information for General Motors

Adbrands Account Assignments track account management for the world's leading brands and companies, including details of which advertising agency handles which accounts in which countries for major markets.

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Daily Update 17th Feb 2020: GM announced plans to exit several further international markets, perhaps most significantly Australia. In fact, the writing has been on the wall for the group's Australian Holden business for at least a decade. Once the local leader in passenger cars, it has steadily lost sales since it was first overtaken by Toyota in 2003. In 2019 alone, shipments fell by 29%, putting it in 10th place with just 4% market share. (Toyota now has 20%). GM said it will wind down all local sales, design and engineering operations, and will retire the Holden brand altogether in 2021. Instead the company will focus solely on imported "specialty vehicles" in Australia, primarily through a third-party distribution partner. "At the highest levels of our company we have the deepest respect for Holden's heritage and contribution to our company and to the countries of Australia and New Zealand," said GM president Mark Reuss. "After considering many possible options – and putting aside our personal desires to accommodate the people and the market – we came to the conclusion that we could not prioritise further investment over all other considerations we have in a rapidly changing global industry." GM also announced plans to sell its local manufacturing operations in Thailand, and to withdraw the Chevrolet brand from that country.

Adbrands Daily Update 13th Jan 2020: GM is to relaunch the Hummer brand name, not as a separate standalone business, but as a specialist model under the umbrella of its GMC truck division. Originally created as a civilian version of the US military's hard-duty Humvee carrier, Hummer was discontinued in 2010 following GM's Chapter 11 filing. The new GMC Hummer is expected to launch in 2022 as an all-electric off-road pick-up. NBA star LeBron James has been signed to promote the vehicle, and the first ad is expected to air during next month's Super Bowl.

Adbrands Daily Update 17th Oct 2019: GM and the United Auto Workers labour union reached tentative agreement on a deal to end the 30-day strike that closed more than 30 factories across the US, and impacted many more in Canada and Mexico. The deal still needs to be ratified by workers, which could take up to another two weeks. The cost to GM of what is likely to end up as a six week dispute is expected to top $2bn. [Updated: Workers voted on 26th Oct to accept the deal, bringing the strike to an end after 40 days. GM said the stoppage would wipe almost $3bn off its profits for the year.]

Adbrands Daily Update 1st Oct 2019: The GM strike entered its third week without any sign of imminent settlement, despite ongoing negotiations. It is now GM's longest and costliest since 1970. More than 30 GM factories across the US are idle, at a cost of between $50m and $100m per day. The cost to workers is also substantial: the month end brought bills and missed paychecks, as well as a cold turn in the weather that will have been felt by workers manning all-night picket lines. "No one ever wins in a strike," Arthur Wheaton, a professor of labor studies at Cornell University, told the Wall Street Journal. "It's a matter of how much blood you want to lose."

Adbrands Daily Update 16th Sep 2019: Workers across more than 50 General Motors plants in North America went on strike this morning at the behest of labor union UAW. Almost 50,000 employees downed tools, making this biggest private sector walkout in the US for several years. The move follows a break-down in negotiations over new four-year contracts. A key issue is the proposed closure by GM of four US factories as it attempts to restructure for the changing demands of the auto industry. Workers say they have made many concessions since GM's bankruptcy a decade ago, but they are not seeing any of the resulting benefits now that the company has returned to record profitability. The strike could cost GM as much as $100m per day.

Adbrands Daily Update 13th Sep 2019: General Motors promoted Deborah Wahl, previously CMO of its Cadillac brand, to the role of group chief marketing officer, overseeing all automotive brands as well as GM Financial and OnStar. Wahl is the first person to take on that role since Joel Ewanick was dismissed in 2012. She has many years' experience in the auto industry in different companies, but before joining Cadillac last year, she was head of US marketing for McDonald's for four years.

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