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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

GM should start moving metal, not managers

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GM should start moving metal, not managers

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

General Motors Co. needs to settle on a roster and a game plan for selling more automobiles -- then stick with the team long enough to generate results.

It probably makes sense for GM to keep marketing and sales operations separate on the company's organizational chart, as many companies do. But last week when GM reorganized its sales and marketing team for the third time in less than a year, it had the appearance of a company in managerial disarray.

There have been some extenuating situations, such as having a change of CEOs.

But the multiple staff changes have been confusing and off-putting for dealers and other stakeholders.

The changes began in July after GM emerged from Chapter 11. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, who had planned to retire at the end of 2009, was persuaded to stay to help with the transition. He was given responsibility for marketing and communications by CEO Fritz Henderson. Mark LaNeve, who had headed both sales and marketing, was reduced to running sales only.

In October LaNeve left GM for Allstate and Susan Docherty was promoted to sales chief. Then Henderson was ousted in December. Board Chairman Ed Whitacre became interim CEO and promptly stripped Lutz of the marketing and communications jobs, giving marketing to Docherty to go along with her sales responsibility.

That lasted just three months. Last week's shake-up took responsibility for sales away from Docherty, leaving the sales organizations to report to North America President Mark Reuss. The most recent changes, which also eliminated brand general managers for marketing, should increase accountability in each brand's sales operations.

It's understandable that GM wants to put the best possible athlete in each position. But enough is enough.

Whitacre has settled into the CEO's role and had plenty of opportunity to assess GM's talent pool. He has built his own team, which includes GM lifers such as Reuss and outsiders, some of whom are from AT&T, Whitacre's former company.

GM desperately needs to shift the national media conversation to its cars and trucks and away from boardroom intrigue and executive departures.

It's time to let the starting lineup take the field, learn their positions and play the game. That's the only way GM can expect to win.

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20100308/OEM02/303089965/1128#ixzz0hhSUbFu5

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