As you remember, Susan “If you know what I’m good for, answers on a postcard, please” Docherty got canned from her job of Sales and Marketing of U.S Operations, to make room for Joel Ewanick. Back then, many thought it was only a matter of time before ol’ Doperty (see what I did there?) got the ol’ heave ho from GM CEO Eddie Whitacre. Unfortunately, it seems someone still likes her (again, answers on a postcard, please) and she’s now landed another gig at GM. Only this time, they’ve let her loose on the golden goose (hey, see what I d….never mind). (Read More…)
Tag: Susan Docherty
Former Ford exec Ann Doyle sure seems to think so, penning an op-ed in the Detroit Free Press titled Another female auto executive bites the dust. Her thesis?
It took General Motors executive Susan Docherty 24 years of blistering hard work to build an impressive career in one of the toughest leadership laboratories for women: the global auto industry. It took GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre only six months to nearly destroy it.
Given how closely GM has embraced identity politics when it suits its purposes, Doyle’s suggestion is kind of a big deal. But is there anything to it?
Since GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre began firing holdover executives, starting with former CEO Fritz Henderson, TTAC has argued that VP for Marketing Susan Docherty is a prime example of a GM lifer who “owes her career to GM’s timid and inept culture.” Having already lost the Sales VP position to GM’s rising star Mark Reuss, “leaving Docherty time to focus on the marketing side and polish up her resumé,” we figured she was on her way out. And sure enough, several embarrassments later, the announcement came today. What we didn’t expect: that former Hyundai “Marketer of the year” Joel Ewanick would replace her.
In a recent Fastlane livechat, GM’s North American boss Mark Reuss revealed that:
Chevrolet re vamp in ads is well under way with Susan Docherty–you will like it a lot–shows the car, and uses “excellence for everyone”….you will really like it.
When asked if he was saying that “Excellence For Everyone” would be the new Chevrolet tagline, Reuss replied in the negative. Which makes it… a pickup line? Just a line? With “May The Best Car Win” having failed to make much headway, and “American Revolution” a pre-bankruptcy artifact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this “Excellence for Everyone” briefly become Chevy’s main tagline. If only to give Reuss and Whitacre an excuse to fire Docherty when the campaign collapses under the weight of its own vacuity.
Shortly after emerging from bankruptcy last July, when GM’s sales were still showing few signs of recovery, then-Sales and Marketing boss Mark LaNeve had his marketing responsibilities stripped about a week before monthly sales came out. In a matter of months, LaNeve was out the door. Sales and marketing were rolled together again when Susan Docherty took over for LaNeve, but over the weekend it was once again stripped away, in one of the first signs that Docherty’s star is no longer rising at GM. And lets go ahead and start assuming that February sales must be looking fairly grim, because the only real explanation given to Automotive News [sub] is that
The shakeup shows that Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre is impatient to boost sales and for consumers to appreciate what he believes is the high quality of GM vehicles. When he became chief executive in December, Whitacre said his sales and marketing team would need to show results quickly.
The perception gap claims another victim! But Docherty’s downgrade is Mark Reuss’s gain. The former Holden boss, now GM’s President of North American operations, will assume the sales responsibilities, leaving Docherty time to focus on the marketing side and polish up her resumé.
Sort of. At least she might have if my esteemed fellow bloggers had let her get a word in edgewise. No wonder GM seems to have such a low opinion of the “well informed.”
Anyway, the clip’s money quote comes at 1:47, when Docherty lets out the classic Freudian slip: “the last competitive product I spent a couple of weeks in was the Acura TSX.” Whoops!
Sure, GM Sales and Marketing maven Susan Docherty is better at the webchat format than CEO Ed Whitacre (not to mention Mark “HOT DESIGN” Reuss). Docherty’s emoticon-free performance certainly beat Whitacre’s for sheer volume, but even when she’s talking a lot, Docherty isn’t really saying much of anything. Since GM is generally operating under radio though, today’s webchat is about all we have to go on for a taste of life in the RenCen as a turbulent year sweeps to an equally turbulent close. So let’s dig in, shall we?
Autoextremist Peter DeLorenzo is an interesting figure in the auto commentary landscape. Though TTAC has often taken the pioneering car blogger to task for inconsistencies (especially during bailout mania), it’s no surprise that DeLorenzo’s ability to see things as they are comes and goes. After all, the guy is the quintessential insider’s outsider: as a former marketing and ad man, the Autoextremist is always in the Detroit tent… the only question week-to-week is whether he’s going to be pissing out or pissing in. Well, this week the deluge is headed straight for the part of the tent occupied by GM’s new CEO Ed Whitacre and his activist board. And it smells of well-aged vintage Deathwatch.
But before I get into Whitacre’s executive moves, you’re probably gathering I’m not buying “Big Ed’s” act, and you’d be right. After doing some digging around Whitacre’s previous executive life at AT&T, it’s easy to come away with a highly unflattering portrayal of GM’s “interim” CEO. First of all, the “aw shucks I’m just a country boy who has a few good ideas” persona is total bullshit. In his previous executive life Whitacre was known as an arrogant know-it-all who was never wrong, never listened to reasoned advice and who brought absolutely nothing to the table of his own on a day-in, day-out basis. Shocking? Hardly. Anyone who thinks The Peter Principle isn’t alive and well in corporate America today is kidding themselves.
GM’s New CEO Ed Whitacre made his first appearance at the Fastlane blog in a webchat that represented the first access GM has given reporters to Whitacre. Needless to say, journalists do not like sharing their access with the general public, and they let GM know. Thedetroitbureau’s Paul Eisenstein asked “like many of my colleagues, I wonder when you will address us in the media directly, even if by telephone conference. To be honest, a webchat is quite a bit different and doesn’t carry the veracity of seeing or at least hearing you directly.” To which Whitacre responded:
I’ve been on the job for four days. I’ll do it as soon as I feel comfortable and have enough clear air and time. I promise we’ll talk soon.
No worries though. Whitacre didn’t actually say anything newsworthy.
From here on out, GM’s success in the US market comes down to two people: Susan Docherty and Mark Reuss. The two fielded their first joint sales conference call last week, and it was clear that they were still settling into their roles. Listen to the whole hour of awkwardness here, or, for a quick summary check out the final questions of the session (from the WSJ’s John Stoll), and the prickly, defensive answers from Docherty and Reuss. When Stoll asks how Reuss and Docherty expect to change a culture when they’re a product of that culture, the tension is palpable. Then, when Stoll accuses Docherty’s sales organization of buying market share with incentives, the pair’s non-answer is “I guess that’s what you feel.” Meanwhile, Edmunds reports that GM has by far the highest incentives of any automaker, with a True Cost of Incentives of $4,270, over a thousand dollars more than number two Chrysler. Good thing we’re tackling those problems head-on then.
“Susan is more than capable of doing the job,” said Mark LaNeve, a mentor of Ms. Docherty’s who left GM in October and is now CMO at Allstate. The position “is a very big job and it’s a lot easier when the market is good than when the market is bad.”
From AdAge‘s paean to GM Sales and Marketing Diva Susan Docherty. Of course, what AdAge fails to mention is that LaNeve was ousted after overseeing years of declining sales, a detail that casts his judgment on the topic severely into question. No worries though. AdAge enthuses that Docherty is
described by insiders and former co-workers as a smart, hard-charging and pragmatic leader who will push responsibility down the food chain and vigorously defend ad managers who work for her — while being a champion of creative and holding them accountable for their decisions.
Uh huh. Too bad the primary evidence for this is the fact that Docherty “vigorously defended” the Buick ad seen above from none other than GM’s Bob Lutz. A former colleague of Docherty’s describes that bold stand as “good for the creative side,” and GM CEO Ed Whitacre must agree, seeing as he recently stripped Bob Lutz of his marketing title and gave it to Docherty. When MaxBob sounds like the only sane person in the building and ousted deadwood execs are endorsing their replacements, you know it’s time to get scared.
Well, we’ve already been warned that GM’s 4Q cash burn and financial results will be worse than the just-released 3Q results; now we have another reason why. Even though GM has been averaging just over $4,000 per vehicle in incentives, a traditional Red-Toe-Tag sale has been planned for year’s end, reports Automotive News [sub]. As in years past, the answer lies in shoddy inventory management. GM’s Susan Docherty explains:
All of our efforts will be to sell down our remaining 2009 inventory. We’ll have a little bit of carryover of that into the first quarter of 2010, but the objective is to keep our inventory somewhere between 425,000 to 450,000 units. I’d rather have very slow, incremental movement up [in market share] than the peaks and valleys we saw all over 2008 and of course in the first six months of the 2009 calendar year
Wait, there were peaks to go along with all the valleys in 2009? More to the point, how does Docherty’s desire for organic growth square with the decision to spike sales at year’s end with as-yet non-specific financing and cash incentives? The real irony is that GM is having an easier than expected time moving its remaining 10,000 Pontiacs and 8,000 Saturns; The Red Tag event is for Chevrolet, Buick-GMC gets the “Holiday Event” and Cadillac will hold a “Seasons Best” sale. Non-stop incentives on “core brands,” goes against much of the “sell the product, not the deal” rhetoric coming out of GM post-bankruptcy. And unless holiday sales blow up, the profit-sapping incentives will help justify GM’s 4Q loss warnings. The turnaround still has yet to show itself.
You might have thunk that car dealers would stop being skunks, what with the economy going thunk and the end of cash for clunk. But noooooooo. If anything, tough times have seen an increase amount of the same old story, same old song and dance down at the car lot. “You pay what we pay is back!” Little Rhody’s Flood Automotive Group proclaimed, before switching to free tires for life. And what of this? WYTV in Ohio reports [breathlessly] that Greenwoods Hubbard Chevrolet brought in the punters by selling used cars for $5. “Denny Denoi, General Manager of Greenwoods Hubbard Chevrolet said, ‘It’s just something that we wanted to do instead of taking some of these older cars to the auction we decided we would just sell them to the people of the Valley.’” That said, “The catch with this $5 car sale is that there were only 3 cars for $5, and those 3 lucky people’s names were actually pulled from a box.” But that’s OK, right? “Denoi said the sale was a success, and that most of the customers left the dealership happy, even though they didn’t get to drive away with a car for $5. ‘There’s [sic] some people who walked away with some great deals and some people who needed some cars that got some good transportation, and for the most part, I think 95-percent of the people are thrilled today.’” I wonder if GM’s new Sales Maven Susan Docherty will take that one national.