One thing you might not know about Detroit is how big it is. At 142.9 square miles, it’s not as vast as Houston, (599.6 miles), but you can spend hours motoring around the Motor City.
The auto industry still dominates here, including GM (GM), which has its headquarters downtown and assembly plants in the area. In addition, there’s GM’s Technical Center, the cradle of GM’s engineering efforts for almost 70 years. It is a campus befitting of an auto giant. Designed by Eero Saarinen, the grounds cover 710 acres, with 11 miles of roads, over a mile of tunnels, and a pair of lakes (one is some 22 acres) that are used as emergency fire reservoirs.
The campus also houses 38 buildings, including the famed GM Design Center with its distinctive Design Dome, “a secret, enclosed room where the company’s leaders evaluate designs and decide which vehicles to build,” as the Detroit Free Press put it back in 2015. It’s also where I sat down with GM CEO Mary Barra (pronounced BAR-ah) on Wednesday.
Barra, who’s been CEO for eight and a half years, has a tough job. GM, once the biggest company in America and the world, is now the 25th biggest by sales in the U.S., according to Fortune. It’s No. 64 on Fortune’s global list. It’s the eighth-biggest automaker by sales in the world behind VW, Toyota, Stellantis (the old Fiat Chrysler plus Peugeot), Mercedes-Benz, Ford, BMW, and Honda.
GM is still large enough to be a massive global puzzle to manage, which keeps Barra plenty busy. I last checked in with Barra in May at the Milken Conference, where she was focused on coming out of COVID and mitigating the global semiconductor shortage. Those challenges remain, but now Barra is even more intent on moving past all that and transforming GM into an EV company.
U.S. President Joe Biden listens to General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra during a visit to the Detroit Auto Show to highlight electric vehicle manufacturing in America, in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., September 14, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Here are some highlights of the interview (edited and condensed), which will…