A SWOT analysis of General Motors (US based leading auto manufacturer)
General Motors is a leading automobile manufacturer based in the United States and with a strong global presence. The company has also continued to strengthen its presence in the Chinese automobile sector. The company makes and sells pickup trucks, SUVs, cars, crossovers and automobile parts worldwide. It has divided its business into two main segments that include General Motors North America, and General Motors International. Its leading market is North America that accounts for the largest part of its sales and net revenues.
The automobile industry is experiencing intense competition. However, the pandemic has hurt car sales and the revenues of automobile companies worldwide. Apart from disrupting supply chains and distribution networks, it hurt automobile demand globally.
The demand for EVs has grown worldwide during recent years driven by higher focus on sustainability. General Motors has dedicated a separate segment called Cruise to the development and commercialization of autonomous vehicle technology.
GM’s revenues were hurt due to the pandemic as the company experienced sales decline across all its leading markets. However, demand has again started returning and GM is on track for recovery. It has maintained a strong global distribution network that includes 4,697 North American dealerships and 7,661 International dealerships.
In this SWOT analysis, you will read about the primary strengths of General Motors, its weaknesses, growth opportunities, and the main threats that might hurt its business.
|Business Name||General Motors|
|Headquarters||Detroit, Michigan, United States.|
|Net Revenues 2020||$ 122,485 million.|
|Net Income 2020||$6,321 million.|
|CEO||Mary T Barra.|
|Number of Employees (Dec. 2020)||155,000|
|Leading Competitors||Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Honda, BMW, FCA, Nissan.|
General Motors is a global brand with a strong global presence. While the main market of the company is the United States, it has also maintained a strong presence in the other markets of the North American region, and China. GM has employed a strong global sales and distribution network for the sales and distribution of its products worldwide. Its strong global network of authorized dealerships includes 12,358 dealerships of which 4,697 were located in the North American region and 7,661 internationally. According to the GM website, there are 4,232 GM dealerships in the United States.
Strong brand equity:
The company is enjoying strong brand equity globally as a leading producer of automobiles. In the automobile industry, popularity and brand equity depend on several factors including product quality, customer experience, technological innovation and more factors. GM has focused on all these areas and devotes a large sum to research and development as well as marketing to maintain demand and the popularity of its products. The company has also focused on strengthening its social image by investing in social responsibility and sustainability. GM and other auto manufacturers including Ford and Tesla produced ventilators for the emergency situation.
Large product portfolio:
One of the leading strengths of the company is its large product portfolio. The company owns several brands and has brought a nice range of SUVs, pick up trucks to the global market that cater to the needs of the various segments of customers. GM’s portfolio includes Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac, SGMW, Holden, Wuling, and Baojun brands. However, GM retired the Holden brand in Australia after having operated it for more than 90 years. The company is launching GMSV in Australia to maintain its presence there.
Sales growth in china:
The company is experiencing after sales growth in China following the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2021, GM and its Chinese partners have sustained strong growth momentum. Its Chinese joint venture delivered more than 750,000 vehicles which was around 5.2% higher compared to the same period during the previous year. GM has significantly improved its Chevrolet portfolio in China with its midsize and large SUVs including Equinox and Blazer, which are enjoying strong demand.
Strong focus on innovation:
GM has sustained a strong focus on product development and technological innovation, which are critical drivers of growth in the automobile industry. The global automobile industry is experiencing intense competition and companies are investing in various areas including AI, autonomous driving technology and the development of electrical vehicles to grow their sales and market share. GM’s research and development expenses in 2020 remained $6.2 billion according to its annual report.
The company has also increased its investment in the development of electric vehicles. GM is planning to offer 30 all electric models by 2025. Electric vehicles will constitute 40% of its product portfolio by 2025.
Leading automobile brand in the United States:
General Motors is among the three largest brands in the United States. Its market share has dipped compared to around two decades ago when it stood at 28%. Now, the company’s market share is 17.3% in the United States. However, compared to 2018 and 2019, its market share improved in 2020 according to Statista. General Motors continues to remain a dominant player in the United States market along with two others including Ford and Toyota.
General Motors has formed several strategic partnerships and joint ventures around the globe to expand its market share and market presence. The Chinese joint venture of GM is called SAIC-GM. In 2021, GM’s Chinese joint venture experienced higher success. However, GM also has entered several more strategic partnerships that are targeted at various markets and other strategic areas including the design and production of electric vehicles. In 2020, GM entered a strategic partnership with Nikola, maker of electric vehicles. As a part of this strategic partnership, General Motors received 11 percent stake in Nikola and the right to nominate one director. Both the companies will benefit from this partnership through an exchange of technologies and resources.
Dependent mainly on the United States market:
While General Motors is a leading global automobile brand, the company mainly depends on the United States (included in its North American operations and its most significant market) for a very large part of its annual sales and revenues. General Motors has divided its business operations into two segments that include GM North America and GM International. GMNA accounted for around 89% of its net revenues from GM’s automotive business in 2020. Its international segment accounted for only a little above 10% of its annual net revenues in 2020.
However, it leaves the company heavily dependent on the US market and the North America region.
In case of an economic recession or if demand is hurt in North America for any other reason, it leaves the company in a very difficult position. Another notable problem is that the company has failed to penetrate most markets as deeply as the United States. It exited the Indian market some years ago. The company is experiencing a stronger growth momentum in the Chinese market but, compared to the United States, it is still too low and apart from the US and China, the company needs to penetrate other significant international markets deeper to find faster growth.
Mainly dependent on the success of SUV and pickup trucks lineup:
Compare General Motors with the other international automobile brands like Ford, Hyundai or Toyota, and you can see that it depends mainly on the success of its line up of SUV and pick up trucks for revenues. While the company is currently experiencing solid growth with its existing product line up, demand patterns can vary in future and bringing more variety to its product portfolio would be essential for the company.
India is a significant market for automobile brands. However, it seems the US based brands are unable to penetrate the market as deep and find long term success. While GM exited the Indian market in 2017, Ford has also exited in 2021. South Korean brands including Hyundai and Kia as well as local brands are experiencing higher success in India. However, GM failed to achieve the same level of success there because of the lack of a coherent strategy that could support higher penetration and faster growth. While the company cited restructuring as the main reason behind its India exit, auto brands know the strategic importance of India as a market.
Product recalls and quality issues:
Product recalls often drive costs higher for auto brands in unexpected ways. Near the end of 2020, the company was forced to recall around 7 million big pickup trucks and SUVs to replace Takata airbag inflators. While product recalls drive costs higher for auto brands, they are essential considering passenger security. However, they can also hurt customer loyalty and brand image.
Auto brands are targeting the emerging markets like India, Brazil, Mexico and others to find new growth opportunities and for market expansion. Focusing on emerging markets can also help General Motors grow its market share globally and expand profitably.
Autonomous driving and latest technologies:
Autonomous driving is a key focus area for automobile businesses globally. It is a key technology that can drive higher growth for automobile businesses in terms of sales and revenues. General Motors has created a separate department – Cruise for development and commercialization of autonomous driving technology. Following the pandemic, the automobile industry is leaning heavily on digital technology to maximize sales and provide customer support. General Motors must continue to invest in AI and digitalization of major processes to increase its impact.
Innovation must be a key focus area for General Motors. The company is facing intense competition from rival automobile brands. Product innovation remains key to differentiation and faster growth in a highly competitive global automotive market. The company is investing heavily in research and development and also formed several critical partnerships to accelerate its R&D efforts.
As the level of competition in the automobile industry continues to intensify, strategic partnerships will play a very important role in driving faster growth for auto manufacturers. General Motors has formed a few strategic partnerships that have helped it find faster success. However, the company can find growth in several areas utilizing more such opportunities.
Returning auto demand after the pandemic:
According to sources, demand for automobiles has started stabilizing in the United States, which is going to prove profitable for General Motors. The demand for new automobiles ahs come back stronger after the pandemic than analysts had initially predicted. As a result, the level of activity across the GM production centers, which had remained idle last spring has grown. In the third quarter of 2020, the company achieved a $4 billion profit driven ,by the increased production of pickups and other lucrative vehicle models. As demand continues to grow, GM’s sales and profits in the US, which is its primary market will grow faster.
In 2021, GM’s business has been hit by a semiconductor crisis. However, not just General Motors, but Ford and Toyota are also impacted by the shortage. As in the case of General Motors, the production of several of its lucrative vehicle models like pickup trucks and SUVs will be halted across its eight factories in the North American region. Since, the chip shortage has hurt the production of GM’s most lucrative models, it will hurt the company’s sales and revenues in 2021.
One of the biggest threats before General Motors is the level of competition it faces globally. Even in the United States, the company has continued to lose market share over the past two decades mainly due to the growing level of competition. Its rivals like Ford and Toyota are investing heavily in research and development, marketing and human resources to strengthen their competitive edge. As the level of competition grows, the company needs to focus more on growing its competitive edge and maintaining its market dominance, which requires higher investment in various resources and drives costs of operations higher.
The automobile industry is also highly regulated and with growing regulation, the pressure on auto manufacturers related to compliance has also grown. There are many areas where companies need to be highly cautious to maintain their brand image and market dominance. From product quality to passenger safety and environmental impact, the regulatory framework encompasses various areas where noncompliance can mean major losses for an auto brand. Apart from that the regulatory framework varies from the US to EU, China and other regions across the globe.
The companies need to focus and invest more to stay compliant and avoid fines. If the number of product recalls has kept growing, it is because auto businesses have to focus on each area that can pose a major or minor threat to passenger security. While the regulations have proved profitable for passengers and the environment on the one hand, on the other, it has kept driving costs higher for auto manufacturers. As a result, the prices of the vehicles also grow since companies need to pass the costs to the customers. While General Motors focuses exclusively on compliance, some years ago, the company was forced to restructure its business based on evolving market dynamics and regulations worldwide.
Pandemic and its impact on auto industry:
The pandemic hurt the automobile industry severely. It was one of the few industries including tourism, that were affected the most severely by the pandemic. The pandemic disrupted supply chains, hurt demand and sales worldwide and forced several auto businesses to close their operations in several parts of the world. However, the automobile industry has recovered fast since the initial phases of the pandemic and the auto manufacturers are also relying increasingly on digital technology for sales and customer management. While the level of demand has started stabilizing, companies will need to wait for a few years until it is back to the pre pandemic levels. General Motors has also strongly felt the impact of the pandemic in the form of lower demand, lost sales, disrupted operations and lost revenues.
Growing costs of operations:
The costs of operations have continued to grow for the auto manufacturers worldwide. While increasing costs of raw materials, labor and supply chain management costs have kept rising for companies, the pandemic has also added to the increasing woes of auto brands like General Motors. The company is investing more in building electric vehicles and expanding its portfolio. However, the increasing operating costs are causing profit margins for auto brands to shrink.
A few last words about General Motors:
The pandemic has marked a turning point in the history of the automobile industry. Demand patterns, market dynamics and consumer preferences have changed a lot. the world is not going to be the same as before the pandemic. Worldwide, consumers and businesses are leaning heavily on digital technology since the pandemic. The automobile companies have been through the worst during the pandemic. Disrupted supply chains, lower demand, lost sales and revenues and other operational hurdles drove several leading automakers towards major losses. Demand started recovering towards the third quarter of 2020 and General Motors also experienced a boost in revenues and net profit towards the end of the fiscal. The company is also enjoying higher success in the Chinese market, which was the first to recover from the pandemic. It might take a few years before demand returns to the pre-pandemic level worldwide. General Motors needs to expand its product portfolio and focus more on the international markets to reduce its dependence on North American region for sales and revenues. There are several challenges ahead including higher regulation of the industry and increased focus on sustainability since the pandemic. The US-based automaker has grown its investment in electric cars and hopes to have achieved a product portfolio with 40% electric vehicles by 2025. Its rivals are also setting aggressive targets for the future. Considering the level of competition in the automotive sector, GM might also need to grow its focus on research and development.