Maureen Kempston Darkes, head of GM’s 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 GM’s 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 region’s largest market — Brazil.

“It’s a great story in Brazil,” Kempston Darkes says. “We’ve picked up a half of point in marketshare. We’re 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 we’ve clearly grown marketshare and that’s important,” she says. “In Brazil we’re cautiously optimistic that this year it will begin to grow volume and see a gain in the market. I think there’s 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 world’s 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 that’s the best production that we’ve 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 they’ll be some improvement. But we’re 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. We’re seeing that fall off to about 55 percent and we’re selling engines higher than 1.0L. Additionally, the new Corsa’s doing very well and so has the new Meriva which has just been introduced in Brazil. It’s taken the No.1 position in the market since it’s been introduced.

Q. Have any of Fiat’s 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. We’re 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. It’s 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 we’ll look at it.

Q. What is going on in the Middle East?
A. The Middle East is a very good market for General Motors. We’ve picked up marketshare and grown volumes. We’ve 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. We’re looking to continue growth in the Middle East. We have 14 new cars going to the Middle East including the Hummer 2. We’ve 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. We’ve got the Monaro coupe going there, as well as others.

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