General Motors Company Hunkers Down in New York

The main floor of the New York International Auto Show was loud and crowded on Wednesday. But GM's stands, off in a separate wing, were relatively quiet. Photo credit: Rex Moore/The Motley Fool.

Walking around the New York International Auto Show during the media preview days last week, it was clear that some of the automakers regarded the show as an afterthought.

It's easy to figure out why. Events at the massive Auto China 2014 show in Beijing started late last week. 

The global automakers with a significant presence in China -- which is most of them -- chose to send many of their key debuts, and many top executives, to Beijing instead of New York.

Most automakers were able to split the difference well. Ford (NYSE: F  ) CEO Alan Mulally was in China, but his boss (Executive Chairman Bill Ford) and his next-in-command (Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields) were in New York, as were several other senior Ford executives. 

They weren't alone: Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, the CEO of Subaru's parent company, Fuji Heavy Industries (NASDAQOTH: FUJIY  ) , came from Japan to present the 2015 Subaru Outback. Most of the other automakers had key senior executives in attendance.

General Motors (NYSE: GM  ) did hold a couple of private events in New York to show off new models, and CEO Mary Barra and North America chief Alan Batey appeared at an industry conference in New York the day before the show started.

But against the backdrop of a huge recall scandal, America's largest automaker was eerily quiet at the show itself.

GM is hunkered down in a big way
GM didn't have any huge announcements to make, but the General did have some new products to show off in New York. The refreshed 2015 Chevy Cruze, a new convertible version of the Corvette Z06, and the U.S. debut of the small Chevy Trax crossover were all worthy of note (and we've noted them elsewhere).

But while all those vehicles were on display at the show, GM didn't have anything to say about them at the show itself -- or about anything else. GM didn't have a single press conference at the New York International Auto Show. 

GM's Cadillac brand had a stand on the main show floor, among other luxury brands. But GM's other U.S. brands -- Chevrolet, GMC, and Buick -- were off in an entirely separate wing of the building, a long walk from the rest of the show. 

The main floor of the show was crowded with journalists and auto-industry professionals. But GM's stands in the North Wing were nearly deserted by comparison, at least when we (the Fool's John Rosevear and Rex Moore) visited.

It was almost as if GM had chosen to "quarantine" itself, as a few of the journalists at the show said. 

Clearly, GM was concerned that the show would end up getting focused on its recall woes. Given the barrage of tough questions that Barra faced at the off-site debut, that was a legitimate concern.

But at the same time, GM has products to launch and work to do, and it's unfortunate that the company chose -- that it felt it had to choose -- to largely withdraw from contact with the media at the show.

It was very strange. We shot this short video at the show to try to capture GM's isolation from the rest of the event. Here, you'll see how GM was separated from the rest of the industry at the show, and you'll hear John give some thoughts on why GM might have taken this approach. 

(One note: John identified Raj Nair as Ford's "design chief" in the video. That was a verbal typo: John meant to say "global product chief Raj Nair and design chief Moray Callum." Both were at the show on Wednesday, along with other Ford senior executives.)

What do you think? Was GM right to hunker down at the New York International Auto Show? Scroll down to leave a comment with your thoughts.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 20, 2014, at 8:25 AM, funfundvierzig wrote:

    We suppose GM Management has decided it's a good idea to try out their new models in the Peoples Republic of China where human life has a remarkably low value and safety is an afterthought. See if there are any latent potentially lethal defective parts, which can be covered up and hidden from Americans at the time of purchase a few years hence. Ah...yes.., superb strategic planning at Ren Cen.


  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2014, at 1:22 PM, SkepikI wrote:

    At this rate, we taxpayers will NEVER get our $10 Billion back. Is Government Motors headed for the ash heap of history? These sort of strategy choices (presuming they are both, strategy and choices that is) do not bode well for GM or its shareholders.

    I suppose that GM is just going on hope that things die down....unfortunately, HOPE is neither a plan nor a strategy...

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 8:15 PM, Hansen wrote:

    General Motor’s average transaction prices set a new record of close to $34,000 per unit, up $2,000 when compared to the values recorded in the previous month, and about $3,800 higher year over year

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John Rosevear

John Rosevear is the Fool's Senior Auto Specialist. John has been writing about the auto business and investing for over 20 years, and for The Motley Fool since 2007.

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