Mary Barra, Roger Penske address 2019 Automotive News World Congress in Detroit

General Motors CEO Mary Barra speaking at the 2019 Automotive News World Congress

DETROIT — The 2019 Automotive News World Congress was held inside the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center. Wednesday’s evening program featured two high-profile executives: General Motors CEO Mary Barra and Penske Chairman Roger Penske.

Automotive News Group Publisher KC Crain introduced Mary Barra and said, “Look how GM has changed. Mary is their full-fledged leader.  The automaker is in full restructured mode.”

Back in November, GM announced they would close five manufacturing plants by the end of 2019. Those include the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, Warren Transmission plant, Lordstown Assembly in Ohio, Baltimore parts plant in Maryland, and Oshawa Assembly in Ontario, Canada. All of the vehicles made at those plants would be discontinued.

When asked about the plant closings, GM CEO Mary Barra said, “We think the change is moving towards SUV’s and trucks.  We stepped back and figured out where we are strong in our franchises.  We have been on a journey and GM is committed to working with affected communities to help workers find other jobs and get additional training.”

She continued: “These actions will contribute $2.5 billion to GM’s cost savings in 2019.  We have to do what is necessary for the long term success of GM.  I want GM to be successful for many, many decades.  The best time to do it when the economy is strong.  I feel confident we have the right strategy.  Once we saw the challenges we had to make, we had to make progress.  What GM has to do is we have to outperform during this cycle.”

While General Motors is laying off thousands of its workers, they are hiring employees for its self-driving Cruise program. Barra believes making important steps now will make way for a successful future for many years to come.

“GM is very committed to autonomous vehicles.  We are unique.  We want to get the technology to accommodate shareholder value.  We want to make sure the vehicle is safer than the human driver.”

Why do electric with Cadillac instead of sticking with Chevrolet?  

“We are committed to re-brand the Cadillac as electric starting with our flagship leader, then it will trickle down,” Barra answered. “We see a world where EV and fuel cell will be the future.

Baby Borg trophy presentation

2018 Indianapolis 500 Winner Will Power and Team Owner Roger Penske with their Baby Borg trophies. (Jerome Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

BorgWarner CEO Frédéric Lissalde, mentioned that in 1988, BorgWarner created the Baby Borg.  Roger Penske has won 17 of them.  

Upon feeling the energy and his eagerness to win, Will Power won the 2018 Indianapolis 500.  Fred presented the trophy to Roger Penske and Will Power and wished Roger good luck in 2019.  Then, there was a short video from last year’s race played on the giant screens.

Will Power took the podium and exclaimed, “What an amazing year.  We won the Grand Prix race and the Indianapolis 500.  That was my 11th year of racing there.  I’m so glad I could win the 500 for Roger.  Racing is a team sport, so I thank the team who worked the many man hours on the cars.  I want to thank Chevrolet, Mary Barra, Mark Reuss, Jim Campbell for a fantastic engine.  I can’t thank Chevrolet enough.  I want to thank my wife, I can’t forget that.  She is a rock star and we have such a great bond.  I enjoy the victory with you.”

Team Owner Roger Penske said “We are part of a team.  There is no trophy more important than the Borg Warner.  We went 235 mph for 10 miles.  You are almost flying on the racetrack.  It is a great honor to win at the Indianapolis 500.  It was a great season.  I get a lot of accolades.”

Roger was asked “What are you looking forward to next year?”
“We have a brick and mortar retail business,” he answered.  “The Penske Auto Group sells two and a half times more used cars as opposed to new.  We have a $42 million dollar profit.”

What about electrification?
“Electrification today is one percent of the marketplace.  I think we will be 20-25 percent in 2025.”

Have you got a succession plan?  
“We’ve got a succession plan.  One son, Roger Penske Jr., is on the board of Penske Auto Group and my other son, Greg, is on the board of Penske Truck Rental.  I’m not ready to leave yet.”

That’s a wrap for the 2019 Automotive News World Congress. We’ll be back in 2020…


Penske Chairman Roger Penske and Jason Stein from Automotive News. (Jerome Rzucidlo/AmericaJR)

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