General Motors splits sales, marketing; reshuffles leaders for 2nd time in 3 months

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

GM shuffles sales leaders for 2nd time in 3 months

DETROIT — When Ed Whitacre Jr. took over as General Motors Co.’s CEO in December, he told reporters that executives wouldn’t have long to show results.

He meant it.

GM announced sweeping changes in its sales and marketing operations on Tuesday, splitting the two functions after Whitacre combined them in December and shuffling executives across the company’s operations.

Susan Docherty, formerly vice president of U.S. sales and marketing, will now head only marketing, and Steve Carlisle, who ran GM’s Southeast Asia operations, was named vice president of U.S. sales operations.

Both will report to North American President Mark Reuss, who said the move eliminates a layer of management between him and the customer.

Marketing is responsible for convincing people to buy cars and trucks, including advertising, while sales executives work with dealers to close sales.

The structure will allow people to focus exclusively on dealers and sales, while others will focus on marketing, Reuss said.

He said there was dissatisfaction with GM’s results in the past three months, although there were good things like sales staying on par with the industry despite shedding four brands, Hummer, Saturn, Pontiac and Saab.

GM has great new vehicles but needs to do a better job of marketing them, Reuss said.

“We have got to accelerate success in North America,” he told reporters on a conference call. “I don’t think we’ve moved far enough fast enough.”

At Chevrolet, the company’s largest brand, GM kept Jim Campbell, who had been brand general manager, as marketing chief and added Alan Batey to head sales and service. Batey most recently was president of GM’s Holden operations in Australia.

At Cadillac, Bryan Nesbitt will move from the brand’s general manager position back to the design studio. He’ll be replaced by Don Butler, who will be in charge of marketing, and Kurt McNeil. Butler rejoined the company from Inrix, a Kirkland, Wash.-based traffic research firm, while McNeil was previously general sales manager of Chevrolet.

Brian Sweeney, who had been Buick-GMC general manager, stays on in charge of sales and service at the brand, while John Schwegman becomes head of marketing. He had been Chevrolet product marketing director.

All the brand sales executives will report directly to Reuss, while the marketing executives will report to Docherty.

The moves are a sign of Whitacre’s impatience, but may not be wise because it generally takes 12 to 18 months for people to become effective in their jobs, said Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean at the Yale School of Management.

Whitacre, Sonnenfeld said, is all about convincing people to buy GM’s products rather than improving them over the long term.

“This is an illusion of take-charge as opposed to actually working on strategic visions, creating great product,” he said. “This is his, I think, extremely short-term view.”

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