Co., unsatisfied with its rebound out of last summer’s bankruptcy, makes a swath of executive changes aimed at reshaping North American operations to be more nimble and closely connected to dealers and customers.
“We always feel you can do better,” GM North American President Mark Reuss tells Ward’s during a conference call earlier today with journalists to detail the new managerial structure.
GM’s business performance in the last three months has been on par with the industry but not improving fast enough, he says.
“We’ve got some good things going on in terms of having fewer brands (and) relatively the same sales and share. But I would also say we have got to accelerate success in North America.”
According to Ward’s data, GM closed out 2009 with 19.9% of the U.S. market, compared with 22.4% in 2008.
The performance was considered somewhat remarkable considering the unfavorable headlines that dogged the auto maker throughout its taxpayer-funded bankruptcy and restructuring from eight brands to four.
However, Detroit rivalMotor Co. grew its share from 14.7% of the market to 15.9% in the same period. So far this year, Ford’s share has increased to 17.3%, while GM’s has dipped to 19.5%.
“It’s not moving fast enough, with enough success,” Reuss says of the North American turnaround.
The new structure announced today axes divisional managers, splitting sales and marketing duties at each brand between two people. The sales executives will report to Reuss, while marketing leaders will answer to GM Vice President Susan Docherty.
Docherty, who joined Reuss on the conference call, will give up management of U.S. sales to focus on marketing and report to Reuss.
Steve Carlisle takes the title of vice president U.S. sales, responsible for GM’s dealer network, retail sales support and fleet and commercial operations. Carlisle most recently served as head of GM’s Southeast Asia operations in Thailand.
Docherty says GM was strapped for manpower under the previous structure. “We’ve got so much work to do, whether it is on the sales side, the marketing side, the OnStar side, that it’s humanly impossible for one person to do all of that work.”
“The discussions we had were (that) we wanted better business results, we wanted them faster and we said we’ve got to have our best people do that.”
Reuss calls the reorganization his work, “strongly supported” by GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre. He says GM’s reconstituted board was given word of the changes for informational purposes.
Reuss says the new structure eliminates a managerial level, placing more accountability on divisional executives. He repeatedly calls the newly installed leaders “specialists.”
The North American unit will be more nimble in responding to dealers and customers, no longer hindered by slow-moving decision-making channels. “This is my team, hand-picked,” Reuss says, calling the previous organization of people “not quite right.”
“At the end of the day, it is about the people in the structure,” he adds. “They will make it work extraordinarily. This is the wining team.”
In addition to Docherty’s reassignment, high-profile shifts include moving Bryan Nesbitt from general manager of Cadillac back to GM Design as executive director-advanced concept group.
Installing a designer last year to head Cadillac was seen as a major break from traditional industry practice, with GM arguing Nesbitt would guard a maturation of the brand’s recent rebirth.
“He’s one the very best designers I’ve ever known,” says Reuss of Nesbitt. “He is one of the very best strategic minds I’ve ever known, (and) he has done a wonderful job while I have been here.
“What we’ve done is focus people with their skill sets where they are excellent. We need Bryan more than ever in design.”
Steve Hill moves from general manager-retail sales support to head GM’s billion-dollar Service Parts Operation, now renamed GM Customer Care and Aftersales.
Kevin Williams, previously responsible for SPO, will take over GM Canada from Arturo Elias, who moves into public policy.
Chris Preuss, formerly head of GM communications, moves to the top chair at OnStar, where he replaces Walt Dorfstatter, who will assume another role within GM’s global product operations.
At the divisional level, marketing leadership will fall to Jim Campbell at Chevrolet, the brand’s former general manager; Don Butler, who rejoins GM at Cadillac from navigation-data supplier INRIX Inc.; and John Schwegman, who moves to Buick-GMC from Chevrolet product marketing.
Alan Batey will head sales and service at Chevrolet, coming to North America after working as vice president and managing director at GM Holden Ltd. in Australia; Brian Sweeney remains in his post with Buick-GMC; and Kurt McNeil leads Cadillac sales, most recently serving as general sales manager with Chevrolet.
Untouched by the restructuring are Grace Lieblein, president and managing director, GM Mexico; Diana Tremblay, vice president-manufacturing and labor relations; and Chuck Stevens, chief financial officer for GMNA.