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GM's Brian Sweeney named 3rd leader of Buick-GMC in a month

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GM's Brian Sweeney named 3rd leader of Buick-GMC in a month

CHRISSIE THOMPSON

AUTOMOTIVE NEWS

DECEMBER 17, 2009 - 10:08 AM ET

UPDATED: 12/17/09 4:32 P.M. ET

DETROIT -- General Motors Co. today named Brian Sweeney, a 20-year veteran of the company, to become the third leader of Buick-GMC in the past month.

He replaces Michael Richards, who left GM last week after working there eight days.

When asked about the brands' frequent leadership changes, Sweeney, 42, said: “We should all be here forever and do a great job.”

Sweeney, 42, said improving consumers' perception of Buick would be his biggest challenge.

“Buick's an older person's vehicle,” he said, outlining the perception GM hopes to reverse. “Regal's the product that changes that perception.”

Sweeney said a strong launch of the Regal in the second quarter of next year is one of his three initial goals as general sales manager. He also said he wants to deliver year-over-year sales gains, especially this month, and retain Pontiac owners as that brand is phased out.

“It's been a tough, tough business year, but we're optimistic for the end,” he said.

Sweeney takes over a Buick brand desperate for a U.S. sales turnaround. In 1990, when Sweeney joined GM, Buick sold 536,667 vehicles in the United States. Last year, Buick sold 137,197. GMC, boosted by a surge in truck demand, has climbed to 361,739 from 326,370 in the same span.

Sweeney's time at GM includes posts at Saab, Cadillac and Chevrolet. His achievements at Buick-GMC include consolidating the work of 13 advertising agencies with one ad partner, said Susan Docherty, vice president of sales and marketing, who announced Sweeney's appointment at a press event in Detroit.

He is succeeded as Buick-GMC's general sales manager by Jennifer Costabile, 47, a 25-year GM veteran. In her career, she has primarily worked in the field with dealers. Since November 2008, she had served as sales and marketing manager for Cadillac in the Southeast region.

A Detroiter

Sweeney, a Detroit native, lives in the suburb of Rochester Hills with his wife and two sons, aged 9 and 10. He has coached his sons' football and basketball teams and enjoys rooting for Detroit's professional teams. He drives a Yukon Denali, and his wife drives a Buick Enclave.

He became Buick-GMC's general sales manager in July as GM emerged from bankruptcy. At the time, he reported to Mark LaNeve, vice president of U.S. sales.

LaNeve was succeeded in October by Docherty, who had been head of the division since June 2008. She retained her responsibilities for leading Buick-GMC until Dec. 1, when Richards, a former Ford Motor Co. marketer, was announced as her successor.

On Dec. 9, Richards quit as part of a shake-up that followed the ouster of CEO Fritz Henderson.

GM Chairman and interim CEO Ed Whitacre, who has spearheaded other executive changes since taking over for Henderson, said last week that new executives don't have long to show results.

Sweeney said he embraces the pressure that comes from Whitacre's reign.

“This afternoon and the next hour I feel pressure,” Sweeney said. “That's how we all should feel.”

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