Eco Voice Q & A: Jess Bala, Managing Director GM Australia and New Zealand


Jess Bala, Managing Director, GM Australia and New Zealand


Jess Bala, Managing Director, GM Australia and New Zealand has deep knowledge of global vehicle product strategy, having most recently served as Cadillac Director of Global Product Planning and Product Strategy. She played a central role in Cadillac’s transition to an all-EV brand by the end of the decade.

In the role of Managing Director for GM Australia and New Zealand, Jess leads operations across both countries including:

  • GM Specialty Vehicles
  • Isuzu New Zealand
  • Customer Care & Aftersales including Holden Aftersales
  • Chevrolet Racing

“Jess is a highly experienced GM professional who has 15+ years leading and implementing winning product strategies, including the introduction, and positioning of electric vehicles in both retail and commercial markets,” said Ernesto Ortiz, President and Managing Director of GM’s Strategic Markets, Alliances and Distributors region, which includes Australia and New Zealand.

Most recently, Bala launched the XT4 MCM and the highly popular Escalade V, as well as key electric vehicle launches, including the Cadillac LYRIQ in North America and China, while also developing plans to introduce Ultra Cruise in future Cadillac vehicles. Having begun her career with GM in Australia, Bala also has a great understanding of the auto industry in Australia and New Zealand.

“Australia and New Zealand are critical markets in GM’s international strategy and Jess’ appointment comes at an important time in the operation, with further opportunity and transformation for the business on the horizon,” Ortiz said.

All-electric Cadillac LYRIQ in right-hand-drive

To provide insights into electric vehicles, Tim Langdon, publisher of Eco Voice, had the pleasure of facilitating a Q & A with Jess Bala, Managing Director, GM Australia and New Zealand.

Q1 . What is General Motors focused on in terms of innovation with regards to electric vehicles? 

  • General Motors, and Cadillac, have a long history of innovation – With our EVs, General Motors is focused on increasing range, lowering cost, building out robust and reliable charging infrastructure and creating a great customer experience for EV drivers.
  • We’re working with leaders in the charging, infrastructure, battery, and vehicle development fields to identify solutions that will continue to reduce overall EV emissions moving forward.

Q2. What battery technology is General Motors using in its electric vehicles?

  • Our foundational Ultium EV Platform gives us advantages across different markets and will let us quickly adapt as technology changes.
  • Ultium enables an entire line-up of high-volume crossovers, SUVs, full-size pickups to low-roof luxury cars, all from the same core architecture.
  • Ultium optimizes reuse of core components such as drive units, motors, power electronics and our industry-first nearly wireless battery management system.

For more about Ultium

 Ultium: Current Generation

  • Ultium is an EV propulsion architecture with flexible, modular construction.
  • Spans our entire global footprint from the U.S. to China.
  • Enables an entire lineup of high-volume crossovers, SUVs, full-size pickups to low-roof luxury cars, all from the same core architecture.
  • Optimizes reuse of core components such as drive units, motors, power electronics.
  • Is not constrained by any one chemistry or cell form factor.
  • Features cells integrated into modules, which are then integrated into packs.
  • Let’s us do things that would’ve been costly and difficult with internal combustion engines, like easily offer both front- and rear-wheel drive variants of the Blazer EV, and left and right-hand-drive models.
  • Features NCMA (nickel-cobalt-manganese-aluminum) chemistry in large format pouch cells in North America to serve the performance needs of local customers.
  • We’re already demonstrating Ultium’s versatility today with different cells in different markets (i.e., Prismatics used in the China market variant of LYRIQ).

 Ultium: Next Generation

  • We did the hard work up front to make Ultium a flexible, foundational technology on which to rapidly grow and scale.
  • Its ability to use multiple chemistries and cell form factors becomes increasingly important as we grow our lineup of EVs.
  • We will be adding prismatic and cylindrical cells to our North American lineup in 2026.
    • Built through a new joint venture with Samsung SDI
  • These new cell types will allow us to build out a full EV portfolio more quickly.
  • They will also offer easier cell-to-pack integration.
  • Prismatics and cylinders will coexist with pouches in North America.

Q3. Is General Motors increasingly designing electric vehicles with recycling of  the components in mind once the vehicle is at the end of its product  life cycle? 

  • We’re working with leaders in the charging, infrastructure, battery, and vehicle development fields to identify solutions that will continue to reduce overall EV emissions moving forward.
  • GM has a holistic battery lifecycle management strategy that will grow with us as we scale.
  • We aim to send zero GM EV batteries to landfills. For over a decade, we’ve recycled or reused 100% of the batteries returned to us. We will continue to do this no matter the age or condition of the battery.
  • We’re focused on driving circularity in the EV battery supply chain and incorporating the use of quality recycled materials in our EV batteries, which offers many benefits.
  • This approach helps us improve sustainability, lower dependence on raw material extraction, and increase battery material supply, while reducing waste and costs.
  • At every step in our battery lifecycle, we’ve secured strategic agreements and collaborations to enable a sustainable, all-electric future and ultimately put everyone in an EV.
  • Design & Development
    • GM designs its batteries with recyclability in mind. The company is working to create batteries that offer great performance and are easier to service, maintain, reuse and recycle.
    • The company also works with companies like Cirba Solutions and Lithion to recycle battery scrap from its network of development facilities.

Q4.Why is the transition to electric vehicles important in Australia and New Zealand?

  • The science is clear: Climate change is affecting people and our planet.
  • For us to charter a path to a better and more sustainable world, it starts with our people and the environment.
  • From our EVs and low-carbon delivery vehicles, to our charging infrastructure, battery technology, and renewable energy practices, we need to continue innovating with sustainability and the environment top of mind.

Q5.  What are some initiatives governments can implement, or expand on, to support a faster uptake of electric vehicles?

  • Governments can pursue a variety of smart, near to medium term policies that help speed EV adoption. We are at the early stages of the EV transition, and we all need to work together to build momentum that will allow great innovation in the EV sector, which will in turn to lead to more choices for consumers and a lowering of the costs associated with EVs.
  • One key example is removing or reducing taxes on EV purchases. We’ve seen this work in other countries like Norway, where EV buyers didn’t pay import taxes and were exempt from the 25% VAT normally applied to car purchases. This led to Norway having one of the highest EV adoption rates in the world. The US is pursuing a similar strategy with tax incentives, and it has led to an increase in EV sales.
  • It is important to point out that none of these incentives are designed to last forever – they are meant to help consumers access the early stages of a technology in a way that makes it comparable cost wise to getting an ICE vehicle.
  • Of equal importance, though, is that having sustained EV adoption rates provides certainty for other companies associated with the EV transition. Just like it took an ecosystem to get mobile phones into everyone’s hands, it will take a similar effort to ensure that everyone who wants an EV can easily own one.
  • A critical part of that ecosystem is the charging infrastructure that EV owners need to feel confident in.  Building out that infrastructure takes significant investments, and infrastructure companies need to know that EV growth will continue in predictable, stable way that ensures a return on investment.
  • Government policies shouldn’t just focus on getting people in EVs – those policies should also focus on enabling companies to expand charging infrastructure quickly and easily. Those enabling policies can take the form of public investment in charging infrastructure and permitting reform that reduces the regulatory burden associated with installing charging stations. We’ve seen that regulatory hurdles have been one of the key chokepoints to expanding charging access.
  • I also want to take this opportunity make clear that charging infrastructure should not just focus on urban areas, but also rural towns and cities, so all Australians can take advantage of the benefits of EVs. Currently there are much higher numbers of public EV charging stations in urban areas compared to rural ones. To help close that gap, national governments should work with local governments to implement programs that incentivize not just the installation of public charging but also at-home charging.

Q6. How can publications, such as Eco Voice, play their part in promoting sustainability in your business sector?

  • Sustainability has been placed front and center as organizations work to address the growing impacts of climate change but with that attention comes an equal amount of confusion.
  • In this challenging landscape, what’s important to remember is that sustainability doesn’t have to be a choice; it can be the right thing for the planet and for the business.
  • It’s important for us to focus on the education piece and take the time to bring the current and future workforce as well as the next generation of leaders along on the journey.
  • We won’t get to a more sustainable future if we don’t help everyone understand the role they have in this transition.


First published in 2003, Eco Voice is your go-to publication for sustainability news in Australia. Eco Voice prides itself as an independent news platform with a clear focus on sustainability, with articles coming from a diverse range of contributors – all levels of government, corporations, not-for-profits, community groups, small to medium sized businesses, universities, research organisations, together with input from international sources. Eco Voice values community, conservation and commerce. Eco Voice is a media partner of the prestigious Australian Banksia Sustainability Awards – The Peak Sustainability Awards.


General Motors is represented in Australia and New Zealand by GM ANZ, an entity which features business units including GM Specialty Vehicles, Cadillac, Chevrolet Racing, ACDelco, GM Trade Parts, Holden Certified Service and Holden Heritage.  The establishment of these brands has created a foundation to provide a future direction for development of the GM business in this market.  GM ANZ is located at Turner Street, Port Melbourne VIC.

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