By on December 4, 2009

Can this man hold onto American market share? (

The AP reports that GM’s Ed Whitacre is reshuffling executives, turning an already-nervous RenCen on its head. Whitacre has elevated global engineering boss Mark Reuss to take charge of US operations, not an entirely surprising decision as the former Holden boss’s star had clearly been rising. Considerably more shocking was Whitacre’s decision to strip Bob Lutz of his marketing position and roll that responsibility into Susan Docherty’s Sales position. But don’t cry for the man called Maximum: Lutz will remain vice-chairman, will become “an adviser on global product development,” personally advising Whitacre on the auto industry. Nick Reilley, who has been GM’s international fix-it man, has been appointed President of GM Europe, while Diana Tremblay has been named vice president, Manufacturing and Labor Relations. “I want to give people more responsibility and authority deeper in the organization and then hold them accountable,” Whitacre said in GM’s statement, found here.

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31 Comments on “Whitacre Shakes Up GM Management. Again. Still....”

  • avatar

    Considerably more shocking was Whitacre’s decision to strip Bob Lutz of his marketing position and roll that responsibility into Susan Docherty’s Sales position
    This isn’t too bad.  Lutz is patently bad at marketing (so was Mark La Neve, in a different way).  Docherty I can’t really be sure of: she did reasonably well with Hummer (which might not be her work, but more luck and timing) and it’s too early to tell with Buick (which, honestly, seems incredibly haphazard and ill-planned).
    I don’t think I’d like to be in Docherty’s shoes right now: she’s been handed a singularly problematic assignment (get North Americans to buy GM cars in volume and at a profit) under leadership that will not tolerate the kind of year-0ver-year mediocrity that La Neve managed.  I suspect all of these promotions, after seeing what’s happened to Henderson and Lutz, will be extremely motivated to show results, but none more than Docherty.

  • avatar

    I never really understood Lutz in marketing.  Lutz has a lot of high-level auto industry experience at multiple major companies, so he would be the natural guy to provide Whitacre with the industry knowledge that he lacks.  In fact, he is the only guy there besides Whitacre who knows anything other than “the GM Way”.
    Also, it is nice to finally see someone with an engineering background in the command chair.  IF he has some management chops, I will take a product/engineering guy over a finance guy most of the time.

  • avatar

    Shake up is what GM needs badly. The bigger money people aren’t there just to show up and make the right me too rah-rah noises. Performance: win or move out. If the union has had a bad effect on GM it is that the management adopted the unionist attitude that we are just here for the pay and to keep our heads down. The core of GM’s cultural problem is complacency, a scelerosis that deadens all. Once the middle managers get the idea that there is no way to be job safe other than to win, things will begin to move at last.

  • avatar

    Hmm…I am going to connect a few dots:
    Luts LOVED the G8 saying the car was too goos to waste…and now Lutz is in-charge of product planning?  I LIKE where this is going.

  • avatar

    Deck chairs.  Titanic.  Blah, blah, blah. 

  • avatar

    Docherty and Lutz will be the next two to be “fritzed”. Docherty’s the marketing genius who greenlighted those awful Buick LaCrosse ads about the director. Enough said. I wonder if Big Ed gave them 90 days to get results like he did with Fritz?

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      “ … awful Buick LaCrosse ads about the director … “
      I wonder if she knew they were making a parody? Those ads belonged on Saturday Night Live so viewers could scratch their heads over whether they were a paid advertisement or part of the show. For years I thought that “the coffee achievers” ads on SNL in the early 80s were part of the show, but it turns out they were actually paid for. Your blast from the past:

    • 0 avatar

      Those ads belonged on Saturday Night Live so viewers could scratch their heads over whether they were a paid advertisement or part of the show. For years I thought that “the coffee achievers” ads on SNL in the early 80s were part of the show, but it turns out they were actually paid for.
      The “New Coffee Generation” ad campaign, though, was parodied by SNL as “the crack generation.”  This one seems to be lost down the memory hole – no YT clips, not featured in the commercial parodies on the SNL site, not even a Google result.  I recall it as being spot-on, right down to the ELO backing track.

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, I remember having a WTF? moment the first time I saw the coffee ads.  I still don’t know if they were trying to parody themselves or not.  I think they were serious.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    I wish I had the money GM has spent printing new business cars for Lutz.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I had the money GM has spent printing new business ‹cars› for Lutz.

      Got cars on the brain, I see?  :P

    • 0 avatar

      If GM could somehow turn those business cards that LUTZ tosses away into GREEN BACKS.. theyd be back in the BLACK!

      Lets just admit it..

      Within a coupla months.. Imma bet that LUTZ is going to be their next CEO. He’s got a big enough mouth, “he’s been everywhere man, he’s been everywhere man” ( sorry Johnny Cash song) and has a better idea of whats going on than most there.

      Or maybe we can just change the company to LUTZ and HIS SLUTZ. Can you put that on a business card? Heck, I’d like to see them make a 2″ sq plastic do-hickey to put on every GM err LUTZ car currently made.

  • avatar

    We shall see, but if Ed’s actually holding these dimwits accountable, then it’s truly a new day at GM. I think this guy’s serious, and I bet the upper end of GM is convinced of that as well.

  • avatar

    I am not convinced GM has better than even odds of making it. They headed themselves in the wrong direction too many years ago and got too far behind in so many ways. Others filled their void and are now too deeply entrenched to be dislodged in the timeframe available to GM.
    Here goes anyway:  Put a top MARKETING person in at the top and see if they can work magic.

    When Consumer Reports ranks GM’s best products at 9th and 13th on a list, a MARKETING person would go berserk. When Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Road and Track, Automobile, and other enthusiast periodicals rank GM’s products far down on a list, a MARKETING person would go ballistic.
    When the more mainstream publications like Good Housekeeping, Family, and the like rank General Motors products as nothing special with several mis-steps, a MARKETING person would be livid.
    With a talented aggressive MARKETING person, product change would occur overnight with dead burnt bodies in the hallways if that is what it took. Instead, we currently get La Grande Suzie with the up-down-up-down rear door, daughter bouncing around Wii-ing and son zombie mouth-breathing watching a video in the back seat.
    Huge ad budgets with the products poor showing month in and month out on the newsstand will not save General Motors. A strong MARKETING person with the power to fix the many many many product ills is the only White Knight I can see.

    • 0 avatar

      What Id like to know is..

      Lutz became chairman of GM North American development in 2001

      Then he said he wanted to retire…

      Then he “comes back”  on July 10, 2009, in a press conference GM stated that Lutz will remain at GM as vice chairman responsible for all creative elements of products and customer relationships.

      He was also in charge of leading the effort to better guide GM’s brands, and the automaker’s marketing, advertising, and communications

      Then he goes over to Opel to take charge..

      And now he’s coming back to the U.S (leaving Opel FAST) to remain vice-chairman, will become “an adviser on global product development.

      Holy shit.
      That guy.. deserves his own damn plane. I mean imagine having to move back n forth and do all of that meanial shit.

      I mean damn.. who would have thought.. LUTZ would STILL be valuable and used as a venerable yo-yo by the CEO / Pres of GM at HIS AGE?!? I mean.. can ya still be relevant in ya 70s to the auto industry?

      Makes ya wish Lido still had his “pizazz.”

      I can actually say… I think Lutz actually deserves the money, well maybe not all of it cause.. thats just a lot of damn money to spend.. buy a good 1/2.

      I wonder what names are on Ed’s BRING list to Lutz

  • avatar

    Can’t see this as a bad thing.  Perhaps if they had this guy in when Mullaly showed up across town they would be OK (ish) and the Feds would have let Cryco take a dirt nap.

    Putting Lutz in a position where he can advise on the industry, but not make any decisions, could be very good.

    As it is I don’t think Moses himself (or Charlton Heston) could reverse this one.  There are just too many major divisions in too vast a pile of animal refuse.
    Whitacre may end up as the CEO of the second largest division of SAIC.


    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Puthuff

      Putting Lutz in a position where he can advise on the industry, but not make any decisions, could be very good.
      I agree. Merkur. Exide (at the helm as it descended into bankruptcy). In 2001, stated that a 500-hp car would “save GM.” (The CTS-V has certainly saved Cadillac.) Niche products for struggling brands: Sky/Solstice; GTO.

      He would do well at a small, focused automaker that can afford niche products and where his penchant for design and development can be fully exploited; that automaker is not GM.

  • avatar

    So, Whitacre made Susan Doherty the head of marketing? Yep, she’s going to be the next out the door, no question about it.

  • avatar

    I think they have the message.

    The problem is after 20 years in GM.  They. Don’t. Know. The. Right. Way.

  • avatar

    As an exec Ed is known to be very cheap guy with no passion for new technology. SBC under his guidance was quite behind other telcos on technology and they still are  (have you seen Verizon ads making fun of AT&T network). On one hand it is good for us taxpayers, on another hand we all know that they will fail anyway, so maybe cheap bustard is good thing for the Government Motors. Putz ughm Lutz, I am not so sure.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      A passion for new technology has gotten many companies into deep trouble. Moon shot development projects which lead to nothing (Hy-wire, anyone?), massive corporate database projects that consume mountains of money with little to show for it, and so on.
      AT&T Wireless seems to be doing pretty well with their iPhone exclusive.

  • avatar

    Mad Susan is still here? It keeps getting worse.

  • avatar

    Reuss is a good operator. I’ve met him a few times at various industry events over the years. He’s personable, clear speaking and able to bind a team together for the common purpose. My understanding is that he does not get along with Lutz, with Lutz trying hard to meddle in the G8/Commodore during development. My guess is that’s a good thing for GM product direction.
    He’s handicapped by being a GM Lifer as with all the others, but he’s benefited from being out of the scope of operations of GM NA for a few years here in Australia. GM Holden has to be run as a tight ship on small volumes via some clever packaging on a single (vastly improved) product (G8/Commodore).
    GM NA might finish his career however….

    • 0 avatar

      Any relation to Lloyd Reuss who rose to President of GM before being canned along with Bob Stempel (Chairman) for almost driving GM into BK for not moving fast enough with the GM restructuring in the early 1990’s??

    • 0 avatar

      Lloyd is Mark’s Dad.

  • avatar

    Reuss wasn’t moved by Whitaker but by Henderson about two months ago. Careful trusting AP, guys.

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