Maureen Kempston Darkes, head of GMs operations in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East has good news and bad news. The good news is that market share is finally growing in select South American markets. But the bad news is that the economy is still volatile throughout the continent and will continue to stay that way.

GM, says Kempston Darkes, is No. 1 in Columbia, Chile, Argenti" />

Issue: Feb 2003


GM's First Lady



Five minutes with: Maureen Kempston Darkes, GM president, GM Latin America, Africa and Middle East.

by Andrea Wielgat

Maureen Kempston Darkes, head of GMs operations in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East has good news and bad news. The good news is that market share is finally growing in select South American markets. But the bad news is that the economy is still volatile throughout the continent and will continue to stay that way.

GM, says Kempston Darkes, is No. 1 in Columbia, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Paraguay and Ecuador. And while those are all relatively small markets, GM is also picking up marketshare in regions largest market Brazil.

Its a great story in Brazil, Kempston Darkes says. Weve picked up a half of point in marketshare. Were at 23 percent and in the No. 3 position.

Additionally, after launching new product into Brazil there were several months where the company came in at No. 1 and No. 2.

In down markets weve clearly grown marketshare and thats important, she says. In Brazil were cautiously optimistic that this year it will begin to grow volume and see a gain in the market. I think theres some potential for that.

Kempston Darkes also is in charge of another controversial market the Middle East. But while political tensions are rising she says it is and will likely remain a good market for GM.

Kempston Darkes recently sat down with Automotive Industries to give an update on Latin America and the Middle East and talk about why these markets continue to be key for the worlds largest automaker.

Q. What happened in Argentina during the year? Were there any surprises there?
A. We knew the volumes would be substantially off and indeed they were. But there was good news for General Motors in Argentina. Our Rosario plant operated on one full shift and thats the best production that weve had in the plant since it was built. It largely exports products throughout South America.

Q. Any improvements for Argentina for 2003?
A.
I think theyll be some improvement. But were not looking for a major uptick in sales.

Q. How are things in Brazil?
A. One other good news item from Brazil is that we see the government reducing the tax on 1.0L and over engines. Prior to that almost well over 70 percent of business went to the very small 1.0L engines. Were seeing that fall off to about 55 percent and were selling engines higher than 1.0L. Additionally, the new Corsas doing very well and so has the new Meriva which has just been introduced in Brazil. Its taken the No.1 position in the market since its been introduced.

Q. Have any of Fiats problems at home affected your relationship in South America?
A.
Clearly we are great competitors in Brazil. But we are also working very well in our joint ventures our powertrain joint venture and purchasing joint venture. Were going to compete very hard but also work very well together in our joint ventures.

Q. What role will GMDaewoo play in your markets?
A. Its too early to tell at this point. The situation is that GMDAT will concentrate on Korea. GM has a history in our region of sourcing product from anywhere around the world where it makes sense for our market. So well look at it.

Q. What is going on in the Middle East?
A. The Middle East is a very good market for General Motors. Weve picked up marketshare and grown volumes. Weve got some pretty aggressive plans to increase there. Interestingly, 40 percent of the population in the Middle East countries is under the age of 25. Now our traditional product portfolio for the Middle East has come out of North America cars and trucks, which are very good business for us. We would now really like to enter that market with some smaller vehicles aimed at entry level segments. In December, we began the first shipments of the Corsa from Brazil. Were looking to continue growth in the Middle East. We have 14 new cars going to the Middle East including the Hummer 2. Weve got the Cadillac CTS, which has already been introduced. The Escalade EXT is already there and doing well. The Middle East is a very good market for General Motors.

Q. Are you adding more (Australianmade) Holden products there as well?
A. Yes. Weve got the Monaro coupe going there, as well as others.

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