GM Leader Talks About Turnaround Strategy

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General Motors Corp.'s strategy for fixing its ailing North American business is multifaceted, but the focus is on new products and educating potential vehicle buyers, the head of GM North America said Wednesday.

Gary Cowger acknowledged the extremely difficult start to the year for the world's top automaker, citing as culprits strong business at the end of 2004, rising interest rates and competition.

Cowger said GM's financial outlook may have changed; it drastically slashed its first-quarter and full-year earnings outlooks last week, "but we're extremely focused on what we need to do."

That includes spending incentive dollars more strategically, reallocating resources for vehicles with greater potential for high-volume sales and improving marketing, Cowger said at the opening of the two-day media preview at the New York International Auto Show.

In particular, he said GM needs to do a better job of conveying to customers the unique aspects of its cars and trucks.

He cited the company's announcement in January that it plans to put two safety features, OnStar in-vehicle communications service and electronic stability control, in all of its vehicles by the end of 2010. GM believes it would be the first automaker to make both features standard across its entire fleet.

"We want to make sure that people are aware of the things that only GM can do," Cowger said.

GM shares have traded in the last week at prices not seen in a decade. Shares fell 14 cents to $29.40 in early trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.