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Whitacre wants more sales -- NOW!

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Whitacre wants more sales -- NOW!

CEO's moves aimed at a quick spurt in GM volume

Dave Guilford

and Chrissie Thompson

Automotive News -- March 8, 2010 - 12:01 am ET

DETROIT -- If you're puzzled by the serial reorganizations of General Motors Co.'s sales and marketing staffs, here's the simple explanation: Ed Whitacre wants to sell more cars -- NOW.

The CEO doesn't care to watch another PowerPoint presentation showing that sales will improve next year. Whitacre wants higher sales immediately, informed sources say, and will keep applying pressure until he gets results.

That priority drove last week's sweeping changes in sales and marketing, including a handful of firings and the decision to reinstate hundreds of rejected dealerships.

In announcing the changes, Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, said GM "is not moving fast enough, with enough success."

He said performance of the reorganized staff will be "based on how many cars and trucks they sell."

In February, Ford Motor Co. passed GM in U.S. sales for the first month since July 1998.

Here are last week's major changes:

-- GM moved to reinstate 661 of the 1,160 dealerships that applied for arbitration after GM moved to eliminate about 1,350 dealerships and an additional 650 GM franchises at dualed stores last year before its Chapter 11 reorganization.

The reinstatement removes the huge distraction of fighting those stores through federal arbitration -- and gets more stores open to sell cars and trucks.

-- The sales operation was split off from Vice President Susan Docherty's responsibilities and put directly under Reuss, with Docherty retaining marketing. GM also eliminated the position of general manager for each brand. Instead, each brand will have one staff for marketing and another for sales.

Reuss said the changes will bring him closer to dealers, and two sources familiar with the matter said executives hoped to increase the accountability of field reps. (A full list of changes in sales and marketing is online at

-- GM shook up Cadillac marketing after the luxury brand's sales trailed other GM brands in rebounding from dismal 2009 levels. High-profile former designer Bryan Nesbitt, who had been head of Cadillac sales and marketing, was moved back to a design post. GM terminated two Cadillac marketing executives, Steve Shannon and John Howell. Jay Spenchian, an executive who worked on Cadillac and other brands, also was let go.

-- Reuss revamped the former Service and Parts Operations, a multibillion-dollar unit that will be called Customer Care and Aftersales. Docherty said she will run the operation's marketing. Its field staff will combine with GM's sales staff.

Mark Reuss: The goal of GM’s sales reorganization is “to accelerate success in North America.”

Reuss said: "We've had too many people from GM" contacting dealers. Instead, Reuss said, GM will reduce the number of dealers on each field rep's docket to 12 to 15, from more than 20 now. GM still is deciding the best way to do that, he said. The final plan will depend on the number of dealers GM has after the arbitration process ends this summer, Docherty said.

Reuss cast the sales reorganization as his decision but said Whitacre approved it and joined in selecting executives for key positions. The goal, Reuss said, was "to accelerate success in North America."

Reuss went back to Whitacre's credo -- more sales -- when asked whether GM thought it should have gotten a higher share of customers abandoning Toyota Motor Corp. during its sudden-acceleration crisis.

"I don't know what a fair share of that is," he said. "I'm not smart enough to figure that out. I just want more."

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