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商业 - 汽车

揭秘通用汽车在中国的成功奇迹

Alex Taylor III 2011年07月27日

通用汽车北美的同行们已然因大型公司的通病——官僚病而倒下。令人感兴趣的是,不知道通用汽车中国公司对此还能免疫多久。

    下面这个基本问题的答案将为整整一代商学院的学子们提供一个很好的案例:为什么一家公司——像通用汽车(General Motors)——会在一个大陆惨遭滑铁卢的同时却能在另一个大陆一路突飞猛进?

    这是一个十分奇妙的悖论。过去的30年中,曾一度叱咤西方汽车市场的通用汽车公司如今雄风不再;然而在中国,通用花了不到20年的时间就一跃成为汽车生产领域的领头羊。

    答案对北美和亚洲两个大陆的购车者们都具有巨大的影响。中国是世界最大的汽车市场,业已成为通用汽车最大的市场。2010年,通用汽车在中国市场的销售量一举超过了美国,今后几年这一销售额上的差距还将进一步扩大。

    尽管中国市场目前的利润贡献率仍然相对较低,但中国客户对车型的偏好已经被带到了美国市场。有些首次推出的别克(Buick)车型和雪佛兰(Chevys)紧凑车型是专门针对中国市场设计的。业界认为中国已经在蓄电池和电动车领域处于领先地位。但是通用汽车中国何时才能成为通用汽车全球的主力?

    没有人比迈克•邓恩更有资格来回答这个问题了。他在新书《美国车,中国路:通用汽车的中国故事》(American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The story of General Motors in China)中给出了答案。邓恩已经在亚洲生活多年,目前在香港成立了自己的Dunne & Co.公司,主要为汽车公司提供投资咨询服务。之前,他一直在上海打理美国权威汽车调研咨询机构J.D. Power and Associates公司在中国的业务。邓恩是知名汽车谍照摄影师吉姆•邓恩的儿子。他在底特律长大,目前居住在印尼雅加达郊外。

    邓恩生性好奇而且敢于冒险,是天生的记者,同时也是娴熟的写手。亚洲的经历使他深谙当地、尤其是中国的人情世故。

    邓恩记载过一则轶事,很能说明问题。文中用大量笔墨详尽描述了通用汽车总裁们在第一次与国有企业上海汽车工业集团(SAIC)商谈建立合资工厂协议时所遇到的各种棘手的问题。

    “在中国确定会议时间是一件非常困难的事,然而与中国人签合同更难,而且老是反复无常。总部需要明确的答复,但中方就是不给,这着实让人头疼不已。尽管大家诚意十足,且已就所有合同条款达成协议,但签约的时间总是中方说了算。而且,中方对此讳莫如深。”

    通用汽车首席执行官杰克•史密斯已经登上了底特律飞往北京的飞机,但中方还未确定举行签约仪式的地点。邓恩继续写道:“外国公司驻中国的总裁一般都被委以经济重任。然而在现实当中,他们需要负责的远不止这些——他们还需应付那些令人寝食难安、坐卧不宁的突发事件。然而,职务说明中对此却只字未提。每当首席执行官问及会议是否已经确定时,驻华高管们无不血压飙升、心如刀绞。

    那为什么通用汽车在美国失利却在中国取得了成功?

    来到中国,通用汽车必须重新创业。由于在中国市场没有发展历史和可供借鉴的经验,通用公司进入中国后不得不做到事事灵活处理、处处见机行事。和中国人打交道必须具备这两种素质。这种策略在总部那边是行不通的,因为总部的监管更加严格,一切都得按章程办事。

    骄兵必败,哀兵必胜。90年代,当通用汽车北美业务已经开始走下坡路时,该公司仍认为自己是汽车领域的老大。在组装仅仅几百辆卡车后,通用汽车中国的首家合资企业即以倒闭而告终。因此,通用汽车中国对于自己所面临的挑战有着异常清醒的认识。而且,其合作方是中国人,他们始终在谈判中占有优势。

    在中国,大家的意见都是一致的。在北美,杰克•史密斯得应付他的董事们、实权在握的老板们和美国联合汽车工会(UAW)。可谓是众口难调。在中国,管理结构要简单得多,而且公司的目标也非常明确:达成协议,生产汽车。

    期间,通用汽车也得到了幸运之神的眷顾:大众(Volkswagen),通用汽车在中国的头号竞争对手,心不在焉;福特(Ford)的主要精力没放在中国;丰田(Toyota)则长时间受累于民族主义仇恨。结果,中国人对别克钟爱有加,通用汽车也因此开始了在中国的茁壮成长历程。

    邓恩记录了通用在中国的每一个足迹并以当事人的视角向读者来讲述这些故事。读者读来亲临其境,感同身受。与中国其他的合资企业——例如北京吉普(Beijing Jeep)——不同,通用中国的结局可谓皆大欢喜。

    通用汽车北美的同行们已然因大型公司的通病——官僚病而倒下。令人感兴趣的是,不知道通用汽车中国公司对此还能免疫多久。公司越大,官僚气必然更加严重。随着通用汽车对全球各大市场产品运营和平台的整合,这一问题越来越让人担忧。中国消费者是否愿意为凯迪拉克CTS-V或科迈罗敞篷车(Camaro convertible)买单?美国买家对三缸、四缸动力的车会有什么样的反应?翘首以盼这本书的续作。

    Here's a fundamental question whose answer should generate case studies for a generation of business school students: How could one company -- General Motors -- meet disaster on one continent and achieve explosive growth on another at the very same time?

    It is a fascinating paradox. GM (GM, Fortune 500) slid from domination of the Western automotive world in three decades, yet made itself into a leading automotive producer in China in less than two.

    The answer has enormous consequences for car buyers on both continents. China, the world's single largest auto market, has become GM's largest market, too. GM sold more cars in China in 2010 than it did in the U.S., and the difference will only grow in coming years.

    Although China's profit contribution is relatively small, Chinese customers' product preferences are already showing up in cars for American buyers. Some Buick models and some small Chevys are designed for the China market first. China is already thought to have a lead in battery development and electric vehicles. How long will it be before the tail begins to wag the dog?

    No one is better qualified to answer this question than Michael Dunne in his new book, American Wheels, Chinese Roads: The story of General Motors in China. He's a longtime Asia hand who ran the China business for J.D. Power and Associates in Shanghai before forming Dunne & Co., an investment advisory company specializing in auto markets, in Hong Kong. Dunne, the son of renowned auto spy photographer Jim Dunne, grew up in Detroit and currently lives outside Jakarta, Indonesia.

    Curious and enterprising, Dunne is a natural journalist and a deft writer. His years in Asia have left him an instinctive understanding of local folkways, especially China's.

    In one telling anecdote, he describes in gripping detail the headaches suffered by GM executives in finalizing their pioneering joint venture agreement with government-run SAIC.

    "Confirming a meeting in China is almost never an easy thing. Signing a contract in China is never, ever, ever easy. And never, ever certain. It is a source of tremendous angst when headquarters demands certainty where none exists. In spite of all of the genuine goodwill and the fact that all the terms had been agreed on, China still had the final say about when the signing would take place. And China wasn't talking."

    GM CEO Jack Smith was already in the air flying from Detroit to Beijing before the Chinese would confirm the location of the signing ceremony. Dunne goes on: "Presidents of foreign companies operating in China, are given enormous economic accountability. But in reality, they are responsible for so much more -- ulcer-inducing, anxiety-making responsibility for managing the unforeseen. This task appears nowhere in the job description. When the CEO asks whether the meeting is confirmed, the blood pressure goes up and the stomach goes haywire."

    So why did GM succeed in China while it was failing in North America?

    By necessity, it was entrepreneurial in China. With no history and no established procedures to fall back on, GM was forced to be nimble and to be able to improvise. Both qualities were needed in dealing with the Chinese. That kind of initiative was impossible closer to headquarters where supervision was tighter and bureaucratic rules were enforced.

    There was none of the arrogance that comes with success. Even though GM North America was already well into its downhill slide in the 1990s, it still acted as if it were king of the world. But when GM China's first venture collapsed after assembling just a few hundred trucks, the unit was under no illusions about the challenges it faced. Plus it was working with the Chinese, who held the upper hand in all the negotiations.

    And in China everybody was on the same page. In North America, Jack Smith had to deal with his directors, powerful functional bosses, and the UAW. The result was many mixed messages. In China, layers of management were much fewer, and corporate goals were abundantly clear: Make a deal, then make cars.

    GM also got some lucky breaks: Volkswagen, its number one China competitor, was inattentive; Ford (F, Fortune 500) was occupied elsewhere; and Toyota (TM) was frustrated by longtime nationalistic animosities. Buicks are beloved by the Chinese, and the market was in the early stages of its incredible growth.

    Dunne follows every step and tells his story through the eyes of the participants who were actually on the ground. The reader feels the angst right along side of them as they traverse unknown territory. Unlike other tales of Chinese joint ventures, like Beijing Jeep, this one has a happy ending.

    It will be interesting to see how long GM China can resist the big company disease that felled its North American counterpart. As it gets larger, it will inevitably become more bureaucratic. And as GM integrates its global operations, product development for individual markets will become more fraught. What's the appeal to Chinese customers for a Cadillac CTS-V or a Camaro convertible? And how will American customers react to a succession of three and four-cylinder cars? One hopes that Dunne is already working on a sequel.

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