Yesterday, I talked about how General Motors was getting confident. It showed in some of their new cars. Remember, I came by to visit with Christopher Barger, and also to try out a Cadillac CTS. I could’ve done the latter at a show room not far from my house. It didn’t require a plane ride. So, why did I fly to Detroit to check out the larger story?
Because America (and a big chunk of the world at large) is wondering very intently what comes next for GM, and I was being invited in for some of the story.
The OnStar Story
I had a great visit to the OnStar group’s floor. I met with Twitter friend Kameya Shows and her boss, Steve Schwinke, who showed me what went on behind the famous blue button (OnStar is an onboard assistance platform inside of most -all?- GM vehicles that allows you to call a human with the press of a button for roadside assistance, directions, even poison control!). The system was amazing. They have around 500 patents for the platform, and Steve and I geeked out a few times about wireless technology (my background) and about the possibilities for the future of the platform.
They are saving lives with that platform. There are some great stories (Kameya probably could comment and leave links to them) from what OnStar has done to help people. They even have a remote management capability that helps law enforcement throttle down your car remotely should your car have been stolen and become part of a high speed chase. They let me test that out directly. It’s unbelievable.
The scenario would be like this: someone steals your car. You report it. The police are in pursuit of your car (tracking it because yes, OnStar does that too). They get in position to apprehend the alleged thieves. They tell the OnStar agent (I forget the much better name they call their phone staff), and the OnStar person clicks something that throttles down the car remotely. The car drops all ability to accelerate. Braking and steering still work, but no more gas pedal. Amazing.
Meeting the CEO of General Motors
This man isn’t the CEO of GM, but he’s how the story starts. Christopher Barger is clearly doing something right inside GM. He put a call in to Steve Harris, VP of Global Communications, and asked Steve to book some time with Fritz Henderson, acting CEO. Steve didn’t hesitate, and he booked some time for me to come and speak to Fritz (and I swear, it feels like you should be on a first name basis with him the moment you meet him). And so, I found myself in the office of a man with one of the toughest jobs and under the most scrutiny for his organization’s role in the American economy right now.
And I was going to talk to him about social media?
Want to talk about confidence? I really had to think about how to use my time. You don’t get on a major CEO’s schedule every day. I wanted to convey that these tools I feel so passionately about were important to the success of GM and several other large organizations. I wanted to kick Fritz’s tires on his commitment to social media. I wanted to thank him for making the cars I drive.
First off, know this: Fritz Henderson has an incredible tough job, but his track record says he’s up to it. He knows it’s a matter of doing big actions and not just towing a line. He knows this won’t be easy. I am not qualified to judge them man, but I know this: he looked confident.
Kick the tires of Fritz Henderson and social media? He knows plenty about it. He knows that he wants to actively listen and participate in conversations online. He knows that his company’s efforts over the last few years in the social space are great starts to a larger strategy. He has guys like Christopher Barger out there taking on these kinds of projects, and he is excited (confident!) about the opportunity that lies in better relationships with consumers and other stakeholders.
I’m grateful for our conversation and look forward to the next talk.
In my next post, a bit more about the cars.