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GM Competitive Advantage And Core Competencies

The GM Chevrolet Bolt EV. Source: Flickr Image.

General Motors (GM) achieve a significant milestone in terms of market share and vehicle sales in several regions around the world.

For example, as of fiscal 2021, General Motors’ market share in North America totaled 13.9%, the highest among all regions in the company’s market.

Within the North American region, GM sold 2.2 million vehicles in the U.S. alone, making the region the largest market with a market share totaling 14.4% in 2021.

China came in as the 2nd largest market for GM, totaling 11.2% in 2021.

In South America, GM’s market share topped 10.9%, despite selling only 400,000 vehicles.

For the Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Africa region, GM managed to claim a market share of 7.9%, the lowest among all regions in the world.

The following chart summarizes GM’s global vehicle sales and market share in 2021.

General Motors' vehicle sales and market share in 2021

General Motors’ vehicle sales and market share in 2021

The above data represents GM’s retail sales.

For vehicle wholesale, please visit: GM vehicle wholesale.

These significant market share positions and vehicle sales data reflect GM’s brand power, specifically the company’s core competencies and competitive advantages.

Without certain core competencies and competitive advantages, GM would not have achieved the success it enjoyed today.

Therefore, in this article, we will lay out several of GM’s competitive advantages and core competencies that make the company a formidable player in the automotive industry.

Let’s take a look.

Vast Network of Dealerships

GM had an extremely vast network of dealers to market its vehicles and automotive parts worldwide. These outlets include distributors, dealers, authorized sales, services and parts outlets.

As of Dec 2021, the company had a total of 12,340 authorized dealerships all over the world according to its 2021 annual report.

For your information, GM’s figure is much higher than that of Ford Motor which only came in at 9,955 as of 2021 according to Ford’s 2021 annual report.

Of that amount, 4,670 were dealerships located in the North American region whereas 7,670 were spotted outside of North America under the GM International (GMI) business unit.

GM’s huge network of dealerships helps the company to sell, distribute and service its products around the clock. These dealerships are critical to GM’s success as they maintain the primary sales and service interface with the end customers.

To put it in perspective, Tesla had only about 655 retails and sales outlets as of fiscal 2021, a much smaller figure compared to GM’s vast network of dealerships.

Of course, the comparison may not be appropriate as Tesla does not sell its car through dealerships.

But the figure gives you an idea of how massive the network of dealerships is for General Motors compared to Tesla’s stores and service locations.

In general, the vast number of dealerships gives GM a competitive edge over its competitors in maintaining its market shares all around the world.

Huge Investment In Research and Development

General Motors' R&D spedning in 2021

General Motors’ R&D spedning in 2021

* R&D figures were obtained from GM’s financial statements.

GM spends a huge amount of money on research and development to develop next-generation products and services in addition to improving its existing products.

Besides, the company has also been investing heavily in vehicles and greenhouse gas emission control, fuel economy improvement, and autonomous driving.

As shown in the chart above, GM’s research and development expenses were $7.9 billion, $6.2 billion, $6.8 billion, and $7.8 billion in the years ended Dec 31, 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018.

These were huge sums of money that had been invested to expand the company’s R&D activities in the hope that new technology could be developed to drive sales.

For comparison purposes, Tesla’s research and development expense was only $2.6 billion in 2021, a much smaller figure compared to that of General Motors.

Moreover, from the perspective of the R&D to revenue ratio, GM’s figure has been the highest among Tesla and Ford Motor.

For example, GM’s ratio of R&D to revenue was 6.2% in 2021 compared to only 4.8% for Tesla and 5.6% for Ford Motor.

In short, GM invests billions in research and development, roughly 6% of its total revenue in 2021, to maintain its competitiveness and core competencies in the automobile industry.

Battery Electric Vehicles Development

General Motors' Hummer EV

General Motors’ Hummer EV

* GM Hummer EV was obtained from GMC website (https://www.gmc.com/electric/hummer-ev).

In order not to be left behind in the electric vehicle race, GM has committed to an all-electric future and has been investing heavily in multiple technologies offering increasing levels of vehicle electrification.

This includes the recently enhanced Chevrolet Bolt EV which has about 259 miles of range with the 2023 model year.

Other than the Chevrolet Bolt EV, GM also has announced recently, an all-new battery-electric architecture that will be launched on an upcoming Cadillac EV model.

Moreover, GM also has launched an EV version of the GMC Hummer since May 2020, an upcoming battery-electric truck, which will be built at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly, called Factory ZERO, that has already been re-tooled into a fully-dedicated electric vehicle facility.

With all the upcoming electric vehicles, the demand for battery cells will be huge in the future. Instead of sourcing battery cells from third parties, GM has planned to mass-produce battery cells on its own through collaboration with LG Energy Solution on an equally owned joint venture.

Besides, GM has also unveiled an improved battery pack called Ultium which is intended to be flexible and multifaceted so that the battery cells can be stacked in any way the company wants it, whether horizontally or vertically.

To simplify customer charging experiences, GM has introduced the Ultium Charge 360, an integrated charging approach specifically designed for EV customers that include access to charging networks, GM mobile apps, and products and services.

For example, the Ultium Charge 360 has enabled one of GM’s mobile apps, the myChevrolet, to have access to the largest collective electric vehicle charging network in the U.S.

This data of a vast network of charging infrastructure is a result of GM’s successful collaboration with several charging network operators which has given GM access to real-time data on their respective networks and charge station health.

All in all, GM’s seriousness in embracing an all-electric future in the automobile industry shows that the company is ready and has the capabilities to develop its own technologies in order to gain an upper hand in the all-electric race.

Leader In Autonomous Driving Technology

General Motors' Cruise Origin

General Motors’ Cruise Origin

* GM Cruise Origin was obtained from GM Cruise website (https://www.getcruise.com/technology).
* No steering wheel. No mirrors. No pedals. It’s an entirely new transportation experience designed purely around the rider, according to GM Cruise.

GM is actively developing its internal state-of-the-art autonomous driving technology. The company is not only investing in advanced self-driving technology but also significantly testing autonomous vehicles in several cities such as San Francisco, Scottsdale and Michigan.

As a result, the company has created the Super Cruise which is a driver assistance feature that enables hands-free driving on the highway.

Apart from the Super Cruise, GM also has introduced the Ultra Cruise, an even more powerful and advanced version of driver-assist technology that is reserved only for premium vehicles.

For your information, GM has already rolled out the Super Cruise to all Cadillac models and other car models in the U.S. and will subsequently roll out the Ultra Cruise in 2023.

In terms of autonomous vehicles, GM set up the Cruise AV in January 2018 in a joint venture with several parties. Cruise AV is a self-driving vehicle different from any others in that it was built from the start to operate safely on its own without any driver.

A particular model that stands out under the Cruise AV lineup is the Cruise Origin, a purpose-built, all-electric, self-driving vehicle that is being co-developed by GM, Cruise, and Honda Motor Company, Ltd. (Honda).

The Cruise Origin is designed based on General Motors’ all-new modular architecture, powered by the Ultium platform, and will be manufactured at Factory ZERO starting in early 2023, pending government approvals, according to the company’s 2021 annual report.

Once GM gets the regulatory approval for deployment, the Cruise Origin, a production-intent autonomous vehicle, will be mass-produced in the most efficient and cost-effective ways.

Far from over, GM has also successfully invited Softbank Vision Fund to invest in Cruise in May 2018. Cruise, which used to be named GM Cruise, is responsible for the development and commercialization of autonomous vehicle technology for the company.

In October 2018, both Honda and GM have agreed to work together to fund and develop a shared autonomous vehicle for GM Cruise. The purpose of this joint venture is to create a shared autonomous vehicle (SAV) that can be manufactured at a high volume.

If autonomous driving is going well as planned, GM will definitely have an edge over its competitors, not to mention the extra revenue source generated from this business segment.

Owner Of A Car and Ride Sharing Platform

Update: On April 21, 2020, GM announced plans to shut down Maven Gig and Maven Car Sharing.

General Motors is the owner of Maven which is a car and ride-sharing mobile app that was created in January 2016. Maven consists of two services, namely Maven Gig and Maven Car Sharing.

Maven Gig allows members to lease vehicles to drive in any ride-sharing and delivery services (package, grocery and food) and the app works with companies such as Uber, Deliv and GrubHub. Members can choose from a wide variety of vehicles and can even choose the Chevrolet Bolt EV which includes a free charging service.

Maven Car Sharing is a mobile app for car sharing where users can rent a vehicle at an hourly or daily rate and at the same time lease out their GM vehicles for rental and earn money for doing it.

According to the 4Q19 annual report, Maven is available in 15 cities across the US, Canada and Australia. As of Dec 31 2018, Maven Gig and Maven Car Sharing have accumulated in aggregate over 171 million miles driven, 34 million all-electric miles driven and 247,000 reservations. Maven now has over 190,000 members.

Leaders In Vehicle Connectivity And Safety

While GM has scrapped its car and ride-sharing platform Maven Gig and Maven Car Sharing, it is still a proud owner of OnStar, a service provider that offers connectivity and advanced vehicle safety features through subscription-based and complimentary plans.

OnStar provides safety and security services for retail and fleet customers, including automatic crash response, emergency services, roadside assistance, crisis assist, stolen vehicle assistance, and turn-by-turn navigation.

Apart from the safety features, the platform also has a mobile app, called OnStar Guardian, that allows customers to access key OnStar safety and security services from anywhere and in any vehicle.

Through the OnStar connectivity platform, a proud owner of GM’s vehicle can remotely control certain vehicle features while EV owners can even locate charging stations.

In addition, GM’s customers also can enjoy on-demand vehicle diagnostics, GM Smart Driver, GM Marketplace in-vehicle commerce, Amazon Alexa in-vehicle voice, Google’s Voice Assistant, navigation and app ecosystem, connected navigation, and SiriusXM with 360L and 4G LTE wireless connectivity.

In August 2021, GM also announced plans to roll out 5G connectivity in select model year 2024 vehicles.

In short, GM is leveraging technology to expand its competitive advantages and core competencies in vehicle connectivity and safety features.

GM Will OWn The Delivery And Logistics Industry

GM BrightDrop Trace

GM BrightDrop Trace

In addition to building cars and batteries, General Motors also has been actively participating in the delivery and logistics industry.

To this end, GM’s involvement in the delivery and logistics industry is not just about making delivery trucks but about providing an all-around and complete solution to the entire industry.

That said, GM is building an ecosystem for the entire delivery and logistics industry.

The ecosystem we are talking about here comprises all-electric and connected first-to-last-mile products and services.

Through this ecosystem, GM created BrightDrop.

Effectively, BrightDrop is a new business venture, wholly owned by GM, aiming to create sustainable solutions for the delivery and logistics industry.

BrightDrop’s products and services include commercial delivery vehicles, smart containers, specifically designed delivery carts that transport goods and services over short distances, a software platform called BrightDrop Software Platform for fleets, and asset management designed to help delivery and logistics companies deliver goods more efficiently.

Far from over, GM has even dedicated a manufacturing plant in Ingersoll, Ontario to produce the all-new BrightDrop EV600 and BrightDrop EV410 electric light commercial vehicles.

As of December 2021, GM has already started deliveries of the BrightDrop EV600 to FedEx Express, according to the 2021 annual report.

In short, General Motors is committed to providing new solutions that leverage technology to meet increasing demands for efficiency and speed in the logistics and delivery industry.

Again, this initiative is another GM’s effort to boost its competitive advantage and core competencies so that the company can compete effectively in the automotive industry.

Alternative Fuel Vehicles Technology

GM has a couple of alternative fuel vehicles technology such as the FlexFuel vehicles that can run on ethanol-gasoline blend fuels as well as technology that can support compressed natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

FlexFuel vehicles have already been rolled out in the US and Canada for the 2020 models to retail and fleet customers capable of operating on gasoline, E85 ethanol, or any combination of the two.

In Brazil, most vehicles sold are FlexFuel vehicles capable of running on high ethanol blends.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell Technology



In addition to biodiesel blend fuel, GM also is a leader in hydrogen fuel cell technology.

For your information, General Motors is the only company developing and commercializing both hydrogen fuel cells and EV battery technology.

For this reason, the company has set up GM Hydrotec Fuel Cell Technology, a wholly owned subsidiary of GM aiming to develop hydrogen fuel cell applications across transportations and industries, including mobile power generation, class 7/8 truck, locomotive, aerospace, and marine applications.

GM believes hydrogen fuel cells will play an important role in many automotive and other mobility applications where customers will derive additional benefits from the ability to refuel quickly, an extended range, suitability for heavier payloads, and central refueling of large fleets.

Through Hydrotec, GM is collaborating with Honda in terms of research and advanced engineering efforts in developing and commercializing fuel cell systems.

GM is looking at all angles to identify a business opportunity for hydrogen fuel cell technology and not ruling out the possibility of working with the US Army and Navy.

As of 2021, GM has announced that it will provide support of HYDROTEC technology to Navistar, Inc., which is developing hydrogen-powered heavy trucks to launch in 2024, and to Liebherr-Aerospace, which is developing hydrogen-powered auxiliary power units for aircraft.

Apart from automotive and aircraft applications, GM’s HYDROTEC fuel-cell technology also will be applied in locomotives through a collaboration with Wabtec Corporation.

The collaboration with Wabtec Corporation includes developing and commercializing not only the HYDROTEC fuel systems for locomotives but also the Ultium platform which will also be supplemented into the systems.

Again, GM’s success in hydrogen fuel cell technology in a variety of applications will expand its ecosystem which in turn, help to boost its competitive advantages and core competencies.

Defence And Military

GM Defence

GM Defence

Aside from retail and fleet customers, GM also serves the military and defense industry.

In this initiative, GM set up the GM Defence, also a wholly owned subsidiary of the company, aiming to provide commercially developed solutions, including purpose-built vehicles, for government and military customers.

In its 2021 annual report, GM stated that its defense segment’s growth strategy is focused on building a portfolio of products, including the Infantry Squad Vehicle and the purpose-built Heavy Duty Suburban, by leveraging its manufacturing and innovation capabilities.

GM’s involvement in the military and defense industry not only differentiates the company from its competitors but also gives it a boost in terms of competitive advantages and core competencies.

Moreover, the military and defense segment also adds an extra revenue source for General Motors.

GM Cares For The Environment

While this feature may not necessarily be part of GM’s competitive advantage and core competencies in the automobile industry, it’s good to know that GM cares for the environment in its quest for a leading market share position in the industry.

In line with the company’s ultimate goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions, GM has committed to waste reduction and cost saving as part of its business strategy. To do this, GM is in the progress of converting as many of its worldwide operational facilities to landfill-free facilities.

A landfill-free facility is dedicated to more than 90% of waste materials being composted, reused, or recycled. In addition, approximately 5% of waste in waste-to-energy facilities is converted to energy.

As a result, approximately more than 5 million metric tons of greenhouse gas have been avoided from being released into the atmosphere in the company’s global operations since the launch of the GM Zero Waste program.

In 2021 alone, GM has successfully diverted over 1.1 million metric tons of waste from landfills and incinerators through composting, reusing, and recycling, according to the 2021 annual report.

Far from over, the company is targeting to meet its electricity needs with 100% renewable energy by 2025 in the U.S., a goal that GM recently accelerated from 2030, and by 2035 globally.

As of Dec 31, 2021, GM had implemented projects that had increased renewable energy usage to 1 gigawatt, approximately 75% of its U.S. electricity use and 40% of its global electricity use.

Additionally, between 2019 and 2020, GM executed its largest power purchase agreement to date, with 180 megawatts of solar electricity supplying its U.S. operations starting in 2023.

There are many more examples where GM has spent considerable efforts towards minimizing greenhouse gas emissions in its global business operations.

In short, GM is becoming not only an automotive powerhouse but also a company that does so in a responsible way.


In short, GM is a leading automotive manufacturer which owns not only a vast network of dealerships but also several next-generation technologies such as all-battery electric vehicles, autonomous driving, vehicle connectivity and safety features, powerful mobile apps, as well as alternative fuel cell technology.

The company also has been spending a considerable amount of funds on research and development, totaling as much as $7.9 billion in fiscal 2021.

While busy making money, GM does not forget about caring for the environment with its active waste reduction strategy and commitment towards renewable energy usage.

All in all, GM’s competitive advantages and core competencies are something that is hard for its competitors to replicate.

References and Credits

1. All financial figures on this page were obtained from GM quarterly and annual reports through its Investor Relation website: General Motor Investor Relations.

2. Featured images in this article are used under creative commons license and sourced from the following websites: MomentiMedia TechFever Network and Steve Rainwater.


The content in this article is for informational purposes only and is neither a recommendation nor a piece of financial advice to purchase a stock.

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