GM adds new policy director position as it enters depths of EV transition

Kalea Hall
The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. is adding a new layer of public policy directing as it further deepens its electric-vehicle transformation. 

The Detroit automaker said Friday that Craig Glidden, GM's executive vice president and general counsel, will assume responsibility for global public policy on June 1. Glidden, in the newly created role of executive vice president of global public policy, will oversee the selection of a new senior executive for the policy department; that person will report to Glidden, who will report to CEO Mary Barra.

General Motors Co. announced Craig Glidden will become GM executive vice president, Global Public Policy, and general counsel, effective June 1, 2021.

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The new senior executive selected will take the role over from Everett Eissenstat, the senior vice president of global public policy who's departing in August. He came to GM after serving in President Donald Trump's administration as deputy assistant to the president for international economic affairs and deputy director of the National Economic Council from June 2017 to July 2018.

The move to have two layers of public policy executives comes as GM is pushing forward on its transition to EVs with plans to introduce 30 of them by 2025 and sell 1 million globally in that same timeframe. Earlier this year, GM said it "aspired" to have an emissions-free lineup by 2035. 

Pat Morrissey, director of GM corporate communication, said the additional layer is "because of the importance that we see in public policy."

"This gives us a little better alignment to focus even more on the policies that are going to help us with our transformation," he said.

GM and other automakers have stressed that they need government policies that help with consumer EV adoption including expanding the tax credit program for new electric vehicle purchasers and installing more EV charging stations. 

President Joe Biden is proposing a $174 billion to "win" the electric vehicle market globally as part of his $2 trillion jobs and infrastructure package. His plan would include significant investments in charging infrastructure, consumer incentives, research and development and funding for retooling existing factories to build electric vehicles. 

"It's as an important of a time for any auto company as there has ever been because of not just EVs but policy towards import of cars, importing parts for cars assembled here ... emissions standards," said Erik Gordon, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School. "The industry is at a time when policy can have a big influence, a constraining influence, on how auto companies are operating."

John Bozzella, president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, the trade group that works with and represents automakers, said in an interview Friday with The Detroit News that "public policy is critically important in the sense that policies can accelerate and support cleaner, safer, smarter personal mobility — or policies could slow or stifle innovations that move us toward cleaner, safer, smarter personal mobility." 

"So it really is important that companies have the opportunity to educate policymakers to serve as a resource and to be engaged in those discussions. I cannot think, over the course of my 25 years in and around the auto industry at this intersection of policy and innovation, a more important time for that to be happening."

GM's Friday news comes after the automaker switched gears on a previous stance it took prior to the changing presidencies. In November, GM backed out of a legal battle between the Trump administration and California over the state's right to set its own standards for greenhouse gas emissions and fuel economy rules. 

After Biden took office, the automaker announced its 2035 zero-emissions lineup aspiration. 

Glidden, who will also remain general counsel, joined GM for that position in 2015. He led the transformation of GM's global legal operations to "support the company’s vision of a future with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion," the automaker said in a press release.

Glidden previously worked as executive vice president and chief legal officer for LyondellBasell Industries, a plastics, chemicals and refining company, and before that served as senior vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Chevron Phillips Chemical.

During his time as general counsel at GM, Glidden led the automaker in its fight against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles with a federal racketeering lawsuit that accused Fiat Chrysler's late CEO, Sergio Marchionne, of orchestrating a bribery conspiracy to corrupt three rounds of bargaining with the United Auto Workers in an effort to harm and take over Detroit's largest automaker. GM said it lost "billions" from the arrangement, while Fiat Chrysler called the allegations "meritless" and sought to dismiss the case.

The case was transferred from federal court to Wayne County Circuit Court in November and is still pending. 

Staff writers Riley Beggin and Robert Snell contributed.

Twitter: @bykaleahall