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John G. Middlebrook Retires

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From Autoweek

Dutch Mandel

Imagine the Irony

It certainly was not lost on the sharp mind of John G. Middlebrook, a 49-year veteran of General Motors sales wars.

Middlebrook, who until July 1 was vice president of vehicle brand marketing and corporate advertising, joined family, friends and business acquaintances at the General Motors Heritage Center, a facility that chronicles GM's nearly 100-year history.

They came to celebrate Middlebrook's retirement from the company.

The irony: On the day that Middlebrook was making small talk with well-wishers, GM chairman Rick Wagoner announced that what once was the world's largest corporation is making dramatic, drastic efforts to stay alive.

Those efforts include shuttering plants that build fuel-inefficient and slow-selling pickup trucks and SUVs. The very trucks and SUVs that rocketed John G.--and, at the time, GM--to new sales benchmarks.

Wagoner's message resonated from Wall Street to Main Street. He addressed all areas of the business to be affected. GM will reduce blue-collar strength and suspend dividends. White-collar ranks will be cut by up to 20 percent. Executive compensation is frozen; don't expect a bonus for several years. Promotion and marketing budgets are slashed or eliminated. Even development of the next-generation large pickup truck is on hold.

Not all of the news involved a financial scythe. Wagoner is increasing capital spending for future-powertrain development--hybrid, electric and fuel-cell.

And all of this is being done on the day Middlebrook celebrates his retirement.

I have known John for 20 years, maybe longer. He is a car guy's guy who loves racing and loves moving iron. He showed that love as Chevrolet's general manager. His talents in the field and in the corporate trenches are second to none.

And yet every epoch, and epic, comes to a close. Rarely does someone get to see the pages of his résumé turn so dramatically.

For nearly 100 years, GM has been the engine of commerce, not only for Detroit but for the country and the world.

And times change. Leading that change are smaller, more efficient vehicles. The dinosaurs of yesterday are dying on sales lots with great speed.

Could this be the day when nuclear winter descends on what was once John Middlebrook's reign?

This article was last updated on: 07/22/08, 15:02 et

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so is this good news or bad news, i know even though some people have good resume's or have had a many major accomplishments does not mean they are able to adapt to a changing industry...

Who will replace him, and is he qualified to bring additional sales to GM?

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