GM Canada president says country is poised to help disrupt auto industry

TORONTO -- The automotive industry has not faced as much disruption as it currently does since the days of General Motors of Canada pioneer Col. Sam McLaughlin, and Canada has a chance to play a large role in it, General Motors Canada President Steve Carlisle said today.

Electrification, connectivity, automation and the emerging sharing economy are transforming the way automakers do business, Carlisle said at the first Automotive News Canada Congress.

He compared the industry as it stands today – with dozens of startups and new companies shaking up the industry – to the days of McLaughlin, who founded McLaughlin Motor Car Co. in 1907 as dozens of new automakers competed for customers.

“Some are calling this the fourth industrial revolution,” Carlisle said. “We think of it as an opportunity, and an opportunity to have a lot of fun.”

In order to stay ahead of the curve, GM has been partnering with Canadian colleges and universities in order to better utilize their capabilities, he said.

“We recognize that Canada has world leading universities, top talent and research areas that happen to be very well aligned with our various needs” in areas such as artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, software development and lightweighting, he said.

Carlisle said that in order to keep up internationally, governments and the industry should work to educate workers on new skills they need to get by in an increasingly advanced technological world, pointing to efforts to teach former miners in U.S. coal country HTML and Javascript as an example.

“Canada’s rate of adaptation to these new trends and innovation remains low when we compare ourselves to international counterparts,” Carlisle said. “Our leadership in the global economy will depend on our ability to capture the benefits of these trends.”

You can reach John Irwin at jirwin@crain.com -- Follow John on Twitter: @JohnDIrwin

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