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COLOMBIA - Transport

Santiago Ángel Urdinola

Director of Government Relations, Communications, and ESG, General Motors Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile

Bio

Santiago Ángel Urdinola is a lawyer from Pontificia Universidad Javeriana de Bogotá and holds a master’s degree in telecommunications and IT law from Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain.
Throughout his career, he has held important positions in high-level relationship industries, including president of Sociedad Minera Santander S.A.S, president of the Colombian Mining Association, secretary general of ANDI, and vice president of mining, hydrocarbons, and energy for the same association.

"The first automotive plant in Colombia was developed by German Montoya in 1956, a visionary Colombian entrepreneur."
General Motor Colmotores continues to innovate in Colombia with the latest technology while strengthening its distribution channels and improving customer reach in the market.
Can you tell us more about the early days of Colmotores, and how it pioneered the Colombian automotive industry?

The first automotive plant in Colombia was developed by German Montoya in 1956, a visionary Colombian entrepreneur. This was where the journey of excellence began. Chevrolet, the pioneering brand, came later, but the development in cars, investment, and innovation has continued year after year, with the latest technology. Today, we are still the market leader and have made significant investments over the years. We started producing trucks and iconic cars, such as the Sprint and Corsa, which became the most sold cars in Colombia. We have continued to innovate, such as with our painting plant, where we upgraded from manual pistols to cabins for a superior finish.

What is your view of the competitive landscape for automotive assembly in Colombia?

The competitive landscape for automotives in Colombia can be divided into two sections: car manufacturing and car sales. While both fall under the same umbrella, they have unique characteristics. Colombia has been an open market for several years now, making the sale of cars a highly competitive environment. We know this environment, as we have learnt how to motivate the Colombian population with new products, innovation, and our strong brand. With the largest number of dealerships in the country, we have all the necessary equipment and facilities, making us stand out. This is the secret to our success. On the other hand, in the field of assembly plants, we are competing with many countries to attract manufacturing investment. There are only three manufacturers in Colombia. The competition is significant, and we must demonstrate that the business case here is more profitable than in other potential locations for a project. We have a strong presence in the Americas, with plants in Ecuador, Brazil, Argentina, and in Mexico, and the US, giving us a competitive advantage in the region.

What steps is General Motor Colmotores taking to strengthen its distribution channels and improve customer reach in the Colombian market?

We take pride in being a leader not only in manufacturing lightweight vehicles but also in producing heavy-duty trucks. In both markets, we have captured a remarkable amount of market share over the years. In the trucks segment, our contribution is significant, as we manufacture one out of every two trucks in Colombia. This is a success story that we are proud to share, and with the strong support of our dealership network and our established history, we find it easier to communicate this message. Our commercial teams have forged strong relationships with our dealers, and they are integral partners in driving the brand forward. Together, we embrace challenges and strive to take the brand to greater heights.

How does General Motor Colmotores view the potential for electric vehicle in Colombia compared to other markets in Latin America?

Currently, EV sales account for only about 1% of the total car sales in Colombia, which is relatively small; however, we believe the EV market has great potential, and Colombia is one of the leading countries in transitioning to EVs. It is no coincidence that we chose Colombia as the first market to launch our EV strategy in South America. The country has an appetite for EVs, though there is still a significant gap in understanding the difference between hybrids and electric vehicles in Colombia. Once we overcome these barriers, we can begin to think about the next phase. We have an assembly plant with advanced technology, engineering talent, and skilled workers, and we are fully focused on our current operations. While we are open to exploring alternatives for the future, we do not have any plans for a different assembly line for now. As the market responds more to the appetite for EVs, there will be ample opportunities for everyone, including us, to play an active role in shaping the future.

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