Don’t say he didn’t warn you: CEO Ed Whitacre openly telegraphed his guillotine approach, most recently in yesterday’s Webchat. Two days ago, Brent Dewar, Chevrolet brand manager, was pushed out (leaving April 1) after 31 years at GM. A “Henderson guy,” according to some, Dewar will be replaced by James Campbell, another lifer who ran the company’s fleet and commercial operations.
And it was revealed today that Michael Richards, Buick-GMC boss, has quit his job eight days after joining GM. He had formerly been at Ford for 27 years. Dennis Virag, a well-known automotive consultant, opined that Mr. Richards’ incredibly short tenure “really brings up the question of what in the world is going on.” A lot of people are asking a lot of questions.
Among them: Is it appropriate to fire your top talent for the sake of cultural change? Is there indeed any “top talent” at GM? Will the firings bring about change or chaos? How do these departures signify the new direction, if any, for GM?
What the firings do tell us is that Susan Docherty, Bob Lutz’s replacement, is now sole head of GM marketing. She is a relatively unknown quantity and not too hip or hands-on when it comes to advertising. For someone who has said, “I think our advertising is probably the best I’ve ever seen it, and I want to continue that momentum in the marketplace,” she has a lot to learn.
Another Detroit old-timer, Peter DeLorenzo, was quoted thusly:
The most crucial issue facing GM is the fact that a highly skeptical American consumer public is finding it hard to be impressed with GM’s excellent new vehicle lineup. And until that consideration needle is moved in a dramatically positive direction, the company will literally and figuratively be nowhere.
While GM has figured out how to build a few good cars, it hasn’t a clue how to compel a highly skeptical public to buy them. Whether Ed Whitacre does is a question we’ll all have to keep pondering.
Do you think Whitacre has a direction? Or is he just cleaning house?