GM To Move International Ops HQ To Singapore

To capitalise on the fast growing markets of South-east and South Asia, American car giant General Motors is moving its consolidated international operations (CIO) headquarters to Singapore from Shanghai.

The relocation in the second quarter of next year will allow the US carmaker to “create a renewed identity for CIO and lead GM’s umbrella strategy for the region”, said CIO executive vice-president Stefan Jacoby in a statement yesterday.

GM added that there would be about 120 employees at its Singapore HQ. The location is yet to be determined.

According to Lori Arpin, GM vice-president for communications, about 40 GM employees from the region will move here to join the existing staff at GM Overseas Distribution LLC.

GM Overseas looks after the Singapore and Brunei markets for the Chevrolet and Opel brands, as well as the distribution of car parts under the AC Delco brand to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.
The unit, which was set up here in 1972 as a regional distribution hub but has since played a smaller role, is headed by a financial controller.

Ms Arpin said: “We looked at a number of countries and Singapore was the best location in terms of an operational standpoint.”

The new HQ will include representatives from GM’s regional sales and marketing, product planning, finance, government relations, human resources, IT, legal and communications functions.
It will oversee key parts of GM’s business in Africa, Asean, Australia and New Zealand, India, South Korea and the Middle East, as well as Chevrolet and Cadillac Europe.
While GM makes Singapore its new centre of operations, it will retain the China and Korea offices.

“It makes good business sense to maintain this backbone operation to support these markets,” said Ms Arpin. “China is the world’s largest vehicle market. Our feeling is that it demands our singular attention and focus to remain a leader.”

GM is the dominant player in China. But it is facing stiff competition from Germany’s Volkswagen, while its compatriot Ford – although still some way behind in the sales stakes – has been making strong progress on the mainland.

Observers say that the relocation to Singapore would split the carmaker’s HQ functions and allow it to better focus on both its cash cow as well as the rest of the region.

They added that while there may also be tax and other considerations, GM’s move will let it concentrate on growing the business outside China, especially in fast-rising and consumer-driven markets of South and South-east Asia where incomes and the appetite for cars continue to grow.

Globally, the US giant was also the biggest carmaker from 1931 up until 2008 when it was overtaken by Toyota. GM reclaimed the title in 2011 for one year when the Japanese giant stumbled over the tsunami in north-eastern Japan and worldwide recalls, before slipping again to No 2 behind Toyota.