By on March 1, 2010

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.

Indeed, the only evidence that the S&M split doesn’t mean Docherty is on her way out is that the same division of labor is being repeated across the executive ranks. Because if you can’t pay your execs enough, hiring twice as many can’t be a bad idea. You know, unless bloated management bureaucracies are a long-standing weakness for your company. In any case,

GM will create a divisional reporting structure that separates sales and marketing. Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC will each have a marketing boss, reporting to Docherty, and a sales leader, reporting to Reuss, said the sources, who declined to be identified. The division chiefs now handle both functions.

Since Whitacre took over at GM, the executives have been shuffled and reshuffled so regularly, it’s surprising that they know their own job descriptions. Though it’s heartening to see Docherty, one of the few remaining Fritz Henderson loyalists, sliding her way towards a long overdue kiss-off, dividing sales and marketing is a good way to spread the responsibility around, and prevent anyone from taking too much accountability. Which is probably the price of paying your execs “way, way, way ” below market. Not to mention, a fantastic way to return GM to its bad, old management habits.
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27 Comments on “GM Shuffles Sales And Marketing Management...”

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I’m all for anything which reduces Docherty’s authority.

  • avatar

    I’m guessing here. As a now retired hourly employee it was not uncommon for GM to look at 500 workers and turn that into 450 workers without impacting production.

    Looking at a smaller group,you had to wonder,WTF are they thinking?But if you could see it spread over the whole plant,it starts to make sense.

    GM has taken the lessons learned on the plant floor,and the lower levels of the salary ranks,and moved it up to the executive level.

    Hey….Wasn’t the lack of accountabilty at the higher levels one of the huge issues of the “old GM”

    IMHO Mr Whitacre is a breath of fresh air.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that Whitacre is a “breath of fresh air.” It’s just that we’re all trying to figure out in what direction he’s going with a company that has a heavy investment of taxpayer money. The moves just made in separating marketing and sales for each brand only makes sense IMHO if the intention is to give each brand autonomy again, ALA Alfred P. Sloan. But I can’t really see that happening.

  • avatar

    Good move regarding Docherty. Hopefully she gets the message and departs quickly with her skirt club hangers on.

    Now for Reuss… He has an inverse midas touch himself, much like is father. Aztek, GTO, G6… The hits just keep on coming.

  • avatar
    Dr Lemming

    The structure will be changed again in a few months, so it doesn’t matter all that much, no?

  • avatar

    Is that right? You get two months to turn sales around at GM or you’re (essentially) fired?

    That seems kind of like an oil tanker captain telling his first mate to turn hard to port, and firing him when the ship is still pointing the same direction two minutes later…

  • avatar

    I would suspect (without any facts to support the idea) that Docherty got whacked after a meeting in which Whitacre asked her how she intended to capitalize on Toyota’s sudden fall from quality grace. In said imagined meeting, I’d guess that she gave some dreamy BS answer that clearly showed that no one on her staff had been planning any such response. Perhaps she suggested trotting out Huey Long again and having him talk to another wierd person. Whatever.

    Assuming that Whitacre is anything like the CEO’s I’ve encountered during my career, she was history before the meeting was over.

    The Toyota debacle is a perfect opportunity to tout GM’s pursuit of quality and they don’t even have to mention Toyota to make it plain that the convention wisdom of Japanese Good/American Bad is outdated. However such ads have a limited window in which to be effective.

    That’s MY theory anyhow. More power to Mr. Whitacre. The more he rocks the boat the more often those who don’t have what it takes to scramble to survive fall overboard.

    • 0 avatar

      Good Theory!

      That there are no such ads currently running is telling. And Whitacre was a ‘shoot first, question later’ kind of guy in his past career.

      If you’re not capitalizing on your largest competitor’s biggest mis-step in years, what are you doing, Susan?

  • avatar
    crash sled

    You’re not viewing this through the opaque prism of Government Motors, Mr. N. That’s the only view of interest, really, as absent that view filter, this seems to be just chair shuffling. Not that you can see anything through that prism right now, as it’s too early to tell. However, some touchstones/questions to look for, which would indicate a clear departure from a robust business model:

    *** Is Government Motors marketing specific lines/vehicles, in conflict with known market trends?

    *** Is Government Motors marketing specific lines/vehicles, to support specific regional operations?

    There are more, and I bet you’ll do a better job of identifying them than me. Point would be to discretely identify actions taken which come as a result of political influence, and not good business practice.

    As a first cut, I read through the prism and say that splitting off Sales and putting it off on its own is a good thing, as it might tend to promote sound business practice. Sink or swim. Sell or don’t, and face the consequencs if you don’t. Government Motors’ IPO will eventually move if buyers see that type of practice in place.

  • avatar

    “This takes a layer out of the system,” they tell AN [sub], with no trace of irony. Because taking one job and turning it into two jobs is a reduction in bureaucracy.

    It depends on how line management is structured and who those two jobs report to. Right now division sales and marketing goes through the division chief and then to corporate. The new structure will have division sales and marketing heads reporting directly to Reuss. I suppose that’s how they see it as taking a layer out of the system, but it also makes the division chief a little redundant.

  • avatar
    Geo. Levecque

    Somehow I don’t see the new CEO of GM being able to switch from running a Telephone Company to running a Company like GM, as I too worked for a large Telco Company over many years, the twain will never meet, I suspect of the CEO does not improve the bottom line, he too may revert to being a retired Telco person soon, GM has quality issues like Transmissions and even door handles and light bulbs, gosh it never ends does it?

  • avatar

    -1 If you’re not capitalizing on your largest competitor’s biggest mis-step in years, what are you doing, Susan?

    It is doubtful any auto manufacturer is confident enough right now to do any gloating.

    I bet the auto manufacturers are very busy right now checking their floor mats, checking to see which of their models have CTS pedals, and looking through magnifying glasses for whiskers.

    • 0 avatar

      You are EXACTLY correct. They will be going thru spec’s to make sure it’s planned for, DFMEAs to make sure it’s designed for, DVP&Rs to make sure it’s tested for, and Control Plans to make sure it’s inspected for. There is a lot whispering and scurrying going on everywhere. Lots of changes will be made quietly under TSBs, when people go in for sevice while they’re still under warranty. Some will never know of the changes done.

    • 0 avatar

      Folkdancer/pickup man;

      Let me assure you there are a total of 3 Camry’s within my household and a parent’s. All 3 will be traded in at some point for another brand. Regardless of what Toyota does in response to this series of UAI among their cars, it is too little too late for this consumer.
      I gave Toyota the benefit of the doubt – last month. That was prior to learning of so many deaths/injuries involving their vehicles. The Toyota response has been nothing short of atrocious, only when forced to admit there was a mistake or problems wrong did they do so. Even then, the mere fact that NHTSA cannot download what their auto’s record on their ecu ‘blackbox’ tells you something.

      I have none of the vehicles involved in the recalls (yet) so far. Week by week it has changed. I say this as a long time customer, Toyota has lost me and will not win me back. $1000, $5000 incentives will not work. How about being proactive and not reactive? If an American car company had done the exact same things that Toyota has done; be it Chrysler, Ford or GM, the Anti-American press would have their broadcast lead off every day for weeks de-crying the profit motives of the auto maker and crucifying the company involved.

      (I have plenty of investigative experience in accidents and I am appalled this has went on as long as it did. Where was NHTSA??
      State Farm was way ahead of the curve and provided a very early warning sign that sadly was ignored.

      RE: Sounds like Dochery got caught looking and had no answers for anything. Those of you who think this suddenly appeared, are wrong. At some point in time in the past there were far more cases of this acceleration issue that warrented not only an internal investigation but a Federal one.

      ** (insurance & law enforcement background here.)

  • avatar

    I am having difficulty understanding this division of labor.

    If the marketing department is spending millions advertising pick ups to pretend cowboys but the sales people know the only people still buying pick ups are landscrapers who need to pull around large trailers wouldn’t the sales people like to make adjustments to the marketing?

    Or does this division mean that the marketing department does all the work and the sales department just sits back and waits for orders?

    If someone who has worked for a giant company can help clarify why sales and marketing are separated I would appreciate understanding how this works.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      folkdancer, I work for GM but I have never worked in sales or marketing. I do know that GM customers are upset with the dealer experience, both on the sales and service sides (there are good stories about great dealers, too). Remember, GM sells the cars to the dealers and the dealers sell to the vehicle owners.

      I am not saying if this split makes sense or not, but if the perception is that dealer relationships need to be fixed, from GM to the dealer and from the dealer to the customer, then having sales split from marketing might let employees focus on problem areas instead of working both related tasks.

      IMO, we can’t deny the facts – just like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton from 1974 to 1976, GM sales and marketing have been married and divorced twice over the past year.

  • avatar

    This is something that GM is good at, shuffling management and product.

  • avatar

    Docherty on her way out can’t be anything but good news.

    I just hope Whitacre is capable of filling GM’s upper ranks with qualified outside talent. IMO that is the only way GM will have a chance of succeeding. If Whitacre can accomplish that he will have been a success. Whitacre himself needs to put some pep in his step and get on with the task at hand.

  • avatar
    buzz phillips

    Maybe they should put Deborah Kelly Ennis in charge! Remember her?
    She is the one who closed down Oldsmobile and then went on to SAAB, and we all know what is happening there!

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    DEAR ED:




  • avatar

    Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC will each have a marketing boss

    lets read that again

    Chevrolet, Cadillac and Buick-GMC will each have a marketing boss

    Buick-GMC, under one entity – because Buicks and GMCs have so much in common?

    What the hell is wrong with these people??

    • 0 avatar

      Yep, +100.

      Whitacre is a breath of fresh air… if you live next to a nuclear power plant. He is shuffling around dead wood… it took months to get rid of Henderson. He needs to fire the rest of the lumber and start fresh.

      I”ve been beating the corporate culture drum for a while, but Whitacre must not read my posts. GM will fail unless he fires most of his top executives. They are the ones that drove the ship aground.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember, Gov’t Motors hasn’t managed to rid itself of ol’ Fritzie just yet!

      I can’t wait to see the February sales figures… if they’re as bad as postulated about in the article (and there’s no reason to doubt that) then it makes the January numbers look all the more suspect.

  • avatar

    looks like a Dr. Strangelove remake at Gov’t Motors these days. Ed will be good in reprising the Slim Pickens role riding the bomb and waving his cowboy hat into oblivion….(“YEE_HAH!”)

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