In September 2023, Australian Jess Bala became the Managing Director of GM Australia and New Zealand. Most recently before this Ms Bala served as Cadillac’s Director of Global Product Planning and Product Strategy where she played a central role the company’s planned transition to an all-EV brand by the end of the decade.
The import of Mrs Bala’s recent appointment became evident in November when GM announced that Cadillac would be returning to Australia as a luxury electric vehicle brand with the first vehicle to be made available in Australia and New Zealand being the factory right hand drive built LYRIQ crossover.
“It was like Christmas morning for me when this LYRIQ was unboxed here in Melbourne and I felt proud to see my ‘baby’ on the road,” said Mrs Bala at the exclusive launch event that was held in the home of a Melbourne car enthusiast.
Australia and New Zealand are at a formative stage of the EV transition, which presented new opportunities for Cadillac and were important factors in selecting these countries as the first right-hand-drive markets for Cadillac LYRIQ. The LYRIQ will be available in Australia and New Zealand as a 2025 model, with the first deliveries expected in late 2024.
In keeping with the luxury position of the Cadillac brand, dedicated ‘Experience Centres’ will be established in Melbourne, Sydney, and Auckland. Together with an intuitive online presence that will enable customers to explore and buy fully online, these will be the foundations of the retail strategy for the Cadillac EV business in Australia and New Zealand.
“Our Cadillac ‘Experience Centres’ will be destination locations, where customers can discover more about Cadillac as a modern luxury brand and explore, test drive, and buy a LYRIQ,” said Mrs Bala.
“Whether customers want to shop fully online or in-store, we will provide experiences that engage the senses, anticipate desires, and enable our customers to go on extraordinary journeys.”
Pricing is yet to be confirmed, but for customers who would like to be the first to put their hand up to purchase a LYRIQ when it arrives in Australia and New Zealand, they can visit www.cadillacanz.com/register.
On the sidelines of the Cadillac LYRIQ launch event I took the opportunity to find out some more about Jess Bala and her journey to becoming the boss of GM Australia and New Zealand.
Mrs Bala started at Holden in 2007 after spending her whole professional career in the auto industry where she held roles in aftersales, sales, marketing, product and planning. In 2013 Mrs Bala moved to the United States with General Motors where she had the opportunity to work directly for Mary Barra as her Chief of Staff, and in the Cadillac Global Product & Strategy team.
“In product and strategy, I played a leading role in defining the Cadillac portfolio on a global stage. I think capability is really tied to personality and interest – I am an out-of-the-box thinker, willing to speak up, believe that I have good managerial courage and like to foster core relationships which has enabled me to excel in this space,” Mrs Bala told Driven Women Magazine.
The ability to have a hand in delivering customers incredible vehicles and exceeding their expectations and seeing her “babies” on the road is what Ms Bala enjoys most about working with GM. But everyone faces some challenges in their career and challenges are how we grow according to Mrs Bala.
“One thing [challenge] that comes to mind was letting leadership know that a new feature was likely to have challenges – and working through all the possible solutions for it. Thinking through the solutions helped me learn more about the business and myself as a leader,” shared Mrs Bala.
For GM Australia and New Zealand in the short to medium term Ms Bala’s goals are to continue the success of GMSV, Isuzu Trucks (NZ) and their aftersales business. Also to build on the introduction of Cadillac combined with the new direct-to-consumer model that has been launched. All while looking forward to continuing to build relationships and opportunities with business partners in the industry.
“Having so much knowledge and experience with the Cadillac brand and products, understanding our brand goals and utilising existing relationships to build bridges between here and the US, plus other global markets, and Australia and New Zealand will really help benefit the business here,” said Mrs Bala.
Cadillac will be in a position to offer a fully electric portfolio by 2030 and the LYRIQ is Cadillac’s first EV, representing a dynamic, modern and electric luxury crossover. The propulsion system and supporting technologies position Cadillac to be a leader in electrification, connectivity and automated driving.
The Spring Hill Manufacturing, where LYRIQ is built, is expected to rely on 100 percent solar energy by the end of 2023. GM also refurbishes, recycles or reuses 100% of the batteries returned to us. One of our recycling initiatives is a collaboration with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium and recyclers to advance lithium-ion battery recycling and reduce future reliance on mining.
“I am very excited to be home and proud to grow up in a business that I now lead. And I want my daughter to know, through watching me, that she can be anything that she wants to be – there are no stereotypical jobs and anyone can do anything that they put their mind to,” concluded Mrs Bala.
Photographs by Driven Women Magazine.