‘New GM’ May Open Doors

The sales and marketing restructuring announced by General Motors last week will do little to change the automaker’s 3-year-old brand management system, but it may usher in a new era of competition for GM’s national agencies and dealer shops.
Chevrolet vice president and general manager John Middlebrook–who becomes vice president, general manager for vehicle brand marketing under the new system, which goes into effect Jan. 1–will oversee the divisional brands (Oldsmobile, Chevy, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick and GMC). Each nameplate will have its own marketing head. Middlebrook said last week the as-yet-unnamed brand heads reporting to him will be marketing people, in contrast to outgoing system, where the general managers had engineering and financial backgrounds.
Under the reorganization, said Middlebrook, brand managers will be empowered, though not encouraged, to look outside existing agency relationships for advertising.
“I think you’ll see more innovation and more clear marketing focus out of our divisions,” said Middlebrook. “I can tell you that we’re going to give [brand managers] the freedom to do those things if that’s what they want to do.”
GM’s field sales and marketing reorganization will divide the country into five regions, with a total of 200 marketing teams working with all dealers in their area, no matter which GM brands they sell. That has caused some dealer agencies to predict another round of consolidation reviews. Over the past two years, the divisions winnowed the number of shops handling their dealers to a select “preferred” group, made up of about 25 in total.
“They’re not going to want to work with 25 different agencies. It’s too many,” said the president of one GM dealer agency.
–with Scott Hum