By Anne Proffit
Mark Reuss, president of General Motors North America flew from sunny and warm Detroit to rainy and chilly Los Angeles to address media members on Wednesday. Once he arrived, the climate change was evident in the room close to Los Angeles International Airport; this man's enthusiasm for automobiles, motorsports and General Motors is evident by his demeanor and excitement for the future.
The first item Reuss addressed was the vehicle on display outside the hotel where the meeting was held -- Chevrolet's Camaro ZL1. The street and circuit-worthy Camaro wasn't terribly pretty but it looked, at first glance, that it was worthy of great performance.
Reuss stated as much -- from personal experience -- as he was one of the drivers to conduct performance validation on this machine on the famed Nurburgring Nordschleife circuit of 14.173 miles in Germany, where the LSA-powered V-8 muscle car turned an incredible 7 minutes, 41.27 seconds in a single lap, he said. Can anyone remember a GM president that was enough of an enthusiast to take part in a session of this type? Didn't think so.
The ZL1 was "forgiving and neutral," Reuss, a Grand-Am-licensed competitor said. "I was able to drive deeper than I ever have." He especially enjoyed passing the Porsche GT3's that were lapping concurrently, before the car was boxed and returned from Germany to the GM proving grounds and then brought to Los Angeles for this morning appearance. The street car will have its debut during the mid-November Los Angeles International Auto Show.
GM is trying to change its culture -- no easy task -- but having a man at the top like Reuss will go a long way to help cure General Motors' ills. GM is now a recognizable global brand, as evidenced by cars bearing the GM label throughout the world. Most of the cars built for the US market these days are not US-centric, starting with the Chevrolet Cruze that has been a top seller in its small car segment for five months of this uncompleted sales year.
Up next in GM's lineup are the newly launched small Sonic, a Spark minicar and a new Malibu mid-size sedan, set for a December launch. GM is also now a strategic partner with MTV and it's "Scratch" in-house social marketing team, Reuss noted.
In the Buick line, GM's eAssist gives up to 25 percent greater economy and is being offered in the Regal and LaCrosse sedans, in addition to the new Chevy Malibu. Upcoming is the beautiful Cadillac ELR, which Reuss said will get 42 mpg. "We're working on technology, quality and customer service," he said.
In the latter area, Reuss and his minions have a good deal of work to do as they move toward renewing infrastructure at dealerships and creating a more modern automobile culture that is customer-centric. In that regard, GM has a long way to go to get its dealers onboard.
Items we can look forward to are the CUE system for Cadillac, which stands for Cadillac User Experience, an infotainment system that Reuss promises will be available for top-line cars (but he won't say which ones yet, darn it). "It'll be very intuitive and you won't need three hours to learn it; there's going to be no need to take your eyes off the road when using it," Reuss said.
GM will also launch Relay Rides, a long-term shared rides initiative that Reuss hopes will bring more familiarity of the GM brand for younger drivers. And he's very excited about the new turbodiesel Cruze that should be in dealerships fairly soon; Reuss is hoping this initial diesel entry in the United States will spawn more -- once the culture of diesel becomes more familiar to customers in the USA.
© 2011 Anne Proffit
This story originally appeared at Motor Authority