“Mary, the Stage is Yours”

 


 

“It feels great to be here!”

—  GM CEO Mary Barra  —

 


 

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3:00 p.m. on the dot: Mary Barra and Karl-Thomas Neumann arrive in K48, where 4,000 employees have gathered.

 

This is already the third visit to Opel headquarters by Mary Barra in her role as GM CEO. Her very first trip abroad as newly minted GM CEO in January 2014 brought her to Rüsselsheim, Germany. Her latest visit was just a few months back; while she was in Germany attending the 66th International Motor Show (IAA) last September, she announced a ramp-up of the Opel/Vauxhall product campaign.

Two employees of the Rüsselsheim plant sit motionless and proud as statues in the middle of the plant, their arms folded, thumbs hooked under the bibs of their gray overalls. A crowd swirls around them; employees flood into K48, chatting excitedly. Mary Barra, GM CEO and Chairman of GM since the beginning of the year, announced that she would appear at a town hall meeting at Opel headquarters at 3:00 p.m. A countdown clock is ticking on the big screen at the front of the plant: one minute to go. When a photo of the GT Concept appears on the screen, the two workers suddenly show faint signs of life. They both flash a brief smile. “Hmmm?” asks the first. “Hmmm!” answers the second, followed by a satisfied nod.

The murmuring in the hall reaches a crescendo and turns into thunderous applause as Mary Barra and Karl-Thomas Neumann arrive. Host and GM Executive Vice President & President Europe Neumann steps onto the stage and looks out at the faces of over 4,000 employees: “Wow, what an incredible sight!” he breathes, and sets the stage for their guest. “Seeing that GM is standing by us and that, together, we are undertaking all endeavors to ensure the comeback of our brand is an incentive for all of us. Mary, the stage is yours!”

 


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GM CEO Mary Barra: “I can feel tremendous momentum at Opel/Vauxhall, in terms of both new products and financial results.”

Karl-Thomas Neumann


GM Executive Vice President & President Europe Karl-Thomas Neumann: “We will stay on course and keep our sights firmly set on the profit threshold this year.”

Lothar Sorger


Deputy Chairman of the Central Works Council Lothar Sorger: “The Opel workforce is doing its part to help turn things around.”

 

“It’s time to write a new chapter in Opel’s history. You can do this! We can do this!”

— Mary Barra —

Mary Barra started her career when she was 18 years old, at a factory operated by GM brand Pontiac; today, she is listed as the most powerful female manager in the world. She steps up to the microphone; there is a swell of applause, and necks crane to see. “That feels great,” she says, and gets straight to the topic that her audience is most interested in: new models. She announces a revolutionary electric car with pioneering battery technology for Opel, one day before the official announcement at the CAR Symposium in Bochum, Germany. “It’s going to advance Opel’s position as a leader in the electric vehicle market in Europe,” she says, looking out into the crowd. The announcement goes down well, even with the two workers who had been motionless and silent up to that point: They give her a brief but heartfelt round of applause, with hands that are used to doing careful, efficient work every day.

On the Same Wavelength

And speaking of new models: Barra, who enjoyed an exclusive tour of the Design Center with Vice President Design Europe Mark Adams, also expressed her enthusiasm for the many great cars and innovations that she had the chance to see up close. The qualified electrical engineer was particularly impressed with the GT Concept: “It’s a stunning car and I’m sure it will be a star in Geneva next month.” The Opel employees agree; applause fills the room once again. The two workers exchange a glance. One raises his hands, the other his eyebrows, as if to say, “Amen to that!”

Mary Barra says she can feel tremendous momentum at Opel/Vauxhall, “In terms of both new products and financial results. Congratulations and thanks to everyone for that!” she says. She prepares to head out, but not without adding that she knows breaking even in 2016 will require a great deal of work. “It’s time to write a new chapter in Opel’s history. You can do this! We can do this!” Thunderous applause.

 

A Speech That Hits Home

After 30 minutes – during which Deputy Chairman of the Central Works Council Lothar Sorger also addresses the employees – the town hall meeting comes to an end. While most employees flock to the exits, the two workers remain seated in the middle of the hall, staring straight ahead. Up on the stage, Mary Barra is posing for selfies with employees. “Hmmm?” the first worker asks. His colleague pulls his thumbs out from under his bib and points them up in the air. “Hmmm!” They nod, satisfied, pull their backpacks up on their shoulders, and head out.

 


Impressive backdrop: The town hall meeting was held in K48.

 


Mary Barra at the CAR Symposium in Bochum


 

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In conversation: Host of the CAR Symposium Ferdinand Dudenhöffer with GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.

From Rüsselsheim, Mary Barra and Karl-Thomas Neumann flew on to Bochum, where Barra presented the company’s plans for the new electric car to the general public. The new Opel electric car with pioneering battery technology is scheduled to hit the market as early as the coming year. The new five-door model is called the Ampera-e, and with a fully charged battery, it will have a larger range than most other electric cars – and it will be affordably priced. Mary Barra discussed the future of individual mobility at the 16th CAR Symposium, where she was invited to be the keynote speaker.

 

“Over the next five years, the automobile industry will undergo more significant changes than it has in the last 50. General Motors and Opel are particularly well prepared to drive this change, in areas such as automated driving, electric cars, full-coverage digital networks, and car sharing.”

                                              — Mary Barra —

 

 


 The Ampera-e will be available as a five-door model with room for five passengers and peerless range.


The batteries are installed flat, in the floor of the vehicle, allowing for the vehicle’s compact proportions.

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Stand Februar 2016

Text: Tina Henze, Fotos: Andreas Liebschner, Volker Dziemballa