GM Revamp Could Spell Roster Turmoil

The sales and marketing restructuring General Motors announced last week will do little to change its 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 on Jan. 1–will oversee the divisional brands (Oldsmobile, Chevy, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick and GMC). Each nameplate will have its own marketing chief. Middlebrook said last week the as-yet-unnamed brand heads reporting to him will be marketing people, in contrast to the engineering and financial backgrounds of those general managers under GM’s outgoing system.
Under the reorganization brand managers will be empowered, though not encouraged, to look outside existing agency relationships for advertising, said Middlebrook.
“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.”
In the past, “general managers didn’t come from [a marketing] discipline, and maybe would have been less likely to try those things,” he said.
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 have winnowed the number of shops handling their dealers to a select group of “preferred” agencies, numbering 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 shop. “I expect that will be clear to them fairly quickly” after Jan. 1. –with Scott Hum