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GM reduces VP Docherty’s role in management shake-up

March 2, 2010

GM reduces VP Docherty’s role in management shake-up

The Detroit News

Detroit — General Motors Co. Vice President Susan Docherty has been stripped of sales and service responsibilities today during another sweeping shake-up of North American operations.

GM North American President Mark Reuss unveiled a revamped North American leadership team, the second major upheaval in four months, and changes that impact marketing, sales and communications. He split sales from marketing and announced a team of vice presidents.

Docherty will oversee marketing in the U.S.

The flurry of changes was needed because GM has not moved fast enough or with enough success since emerging from bankruptcy court last summer, executives said.

"I want us to get the most market share and profit that we can out of this organization," Reuss told reporters today. "I don’t think we’ve moved far enough, fast enough."

Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Whitacre Jr. strongly supported the changes, which were shared with GM’s board of directors today.

"The premise of the structure is simple — a clearer marketing focus to sell more vehicles, and freeing our sales and service experts to focus on customers and dealers," Reuss said. "In order to be successful in North America, we need the right mix of product, people and structure. We’ve worked with a small group of executives to align this model and appoint the best candidates for each job."

Reuss will lead a team of vice presidents handling sales responsibilities. Steve Carlisle will serve as vice president of U.S. sales and handle dealers, retail sales support, fleet and commercial. He previously was executive director of GM’s South East Asia operations and president/managing director of GM Thailand.

Alan Batey, president and managing director of GM’s Holden brand in Australia, will be vice president of sales and service for Chevrolet. Buick GMC General Manager Brian Sweeney will remain with the brands as vice president of U.S. sales and service. Kurt McNeil, general sales manager for Chevrolet, will lead Cadillac sales and service while Cadillac General Manager Bryan Nesbitt is leaving the brand and will serve as executive director of GM’s advanced concept group.

Docherty loses sales and service responsibilities and will be vice president of U.S. marketing.

She will oversee a team of marketing vice presidents for GM’s core brands. Jim Campbell, formerly general manager of Chevrolet, will handle marketing for the brand while Don Butler, who is rejoining GM from personal navigation company INRIX, will handle marketing for Cadillac. John Schwegman, the Chevrolet product marketing director, will handle marketing for Buick GMC.

Other moves include: Chris Preuss, GM’s communications vice president, was named vice president and president of OnStar. He succeeds Walt Dorfstatter, who will become an executive director in global product operations.

Preuss’ replacement hasn’t been named.Docherty, speaking to reporters and analysts earlier today about February vehicle sales, would not address reports that she could be stripped of sales duties.

"It doesn’t matter who you are in the new General Motors. Everybody is moving with a sense of urgency," she said. "We’re all very impatient for positive business results."

Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, meanwhile, wrote in an e-mail to The Detroit News that he is not immediately retiring or leaving GM.

The shake-up is the latest in a series of management changes implemented by Chairman and Chief Executive Edward Whitacre Jr. and his predecessor, Fritz Henderson, since GM emerged from bankruptcy last summer.

Nesbitt, who designed the PT Cruiser during an earlier stint at Chrysler, was named to the top post in July after GM emerged from bankruptcy court and, at 40 years of age, was the face of GM’s push to promote younger executives. He was previously vice president of GM North America design.

Docherty, meanwhile, has been vice president of sales, service and marketing since December following a management shake-up after Henderson’s forced resignation. She previously served as vice president of U.S. sales after replacing Mark LaNeve in October and before that headed Buick GMC.

The move to split sales and marketing appears to undo a key operational decision made by Whitacre and create a structure similar to one under Henderson’s reign.

Sales of GM’s four core brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — have improved the last five months but Whitacre is pushing for quicker improvement and profitability.

GM’s U.S. sales dropped 30 percent last year, and its U.S. market share fell to 19.8 percent from 22.2 percent in 2008, according to Autodata Corp.

Last month, sales rose 12 percent compared to a year earlier and sales of GM’s four core brands — Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac — posted the fifth consecutive year-over-year increase.

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