Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM's Asian promise

GM logo, General Motors logo

Remember the days when GM ruled the road? When it's cars were considered cool? When buying a Chevy was the way to impress your friends?

It sounds like the U.S. In the '50's.

But it's also what you see with GM in China today. There is a fondness and attraction to Cadillac, Buick and Chevrolet. In fact, when I was at a Chevy dealership in Shanghai talking with people buying new Aveo's, they all said the same thing: Chevy's are good cars.

It's this kind of reaction and the fact the GM is #1 in China that are the reason GM's Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner was smiling and relaxed here at the Beijing Auto Show. He calls it "refreshing" to come to a market where the company is flourishing. Who can blame him?

Beijing Auto Show

Over here he doesn't have to answer countless questions about GM's struggles to turn around North America or revive a stock that has languished. To Wagoner's credit, he'll take those questions if they are thrown at him and he won't duck them. But, here in China, reporters aren't asking about GM's fight to turn a profit in the U.S. No, the questions are mainly about what's next for GM in China.

What's next is pushing the growth and leveraging the work of GM designers in Shanghai. This weekend, Wagoner and design chief Ed Welburn unveiled the Buick Invicta at a stylish event here in Beijing. The show car has fresh styling cues and a more refined look thanks to the collaboration of GM designers in China and the U.S. Someday, the Invicta might be sold in both countries. Regardless, It's the first of many models the automaker will deisgn, build, and sell in both the U.S. and China in the years to come.

Baijing Auto Show

That's the Asian promise GM is trying to leverage. Between the success in China and with GM/Daewoo in South Korea, the auto giant has two winners in a portfolio that's "hit or miss" around the world. Don't dismiss what Wagoner, Welburn and the company are doing over here. If they can replicate this success in Russia, India, and other fast-growing foreign markets, it will buy them the type of breathing room they need to complete a turn around in the U.S.

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