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).
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.
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