General Motors Bundles All Brands Except Chevy, Saturn

GM HummerGeneral Motors may have eight brands, but it is aligning them so that Chevrolet and Saturn are the only stand-alones, while the others will be bundled. Actually, part of the operation isn't new at all. The company six years ago bundled Pontiac, Buick and GMC together.

So, the real news is that Cadillac, Hummer, and Saab will be bundled together as a premium channel. The other news is that Nissan expatriate Mark McNabb will head up that channel. He is the latest marketing executive from a Japanese automaker to defect to Detroit. McNabb, who starts next week, had been corporate VP at Infiniti and SVP sales and marketing of Nashville, Tenn.-based Nissan North America. Jim Taylor, Cadillac divisional manager, Martin Walsh, Hummer divisional manager, and Steve Shannon, Saab's general manager, will report to McNabb.



Other GM divisional managers will get new titles, effective June 1. Ed Peper, currently Chevrolet's general manager, will become North American VP of GM's Chevrolet Channel. Susan Docherty, general manager of GM's Western region, will be North American VP/Buick-Pontiac-GMC. Jim Bunnell--until now general manager of Buick-Pontiac-GMC (BPM), will be executive director of something called the Channel Support Group.

Continuing in their current roles are Jill Lajdziak, Saturn general manager; Bill Powell, GM's North American VP and Doug Herberger, GM's North American VP.

Docherty, McNabb, Peper and Bunnell will report to Mark LaNeve, North American VP/vehicle sales service and marketing. So will Lajdziak, Powell, and Herberger.

Pete Ternes, a spokesperson for GM sales and marketing, says the changes will not be visible to consumers. "It's inside baseball; we aren't going to talk about it in ads." Although superficially it may seem as if the changes might weaken the separate identities of the brands GM will now bundle, the reasoning behind the moves is to strengthen the brands by limiting the propensity for intramural competition between the brands.

The BPG channel was, in some senses, an experiment to see if the program would work. Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president, vehicle sales service and marketing, explained: "We are transitioning our portfolio to highly differentiated vehicles for each of our brands that truly meet targeted customer needs. This has resulted in stronger, more focused models in each channel portfolio."

"Today, the BPG channel covers a wide section of the market with distinct products like the Buick Enclave crossover, Pontiac G8 rear-wheel-drive sedan, and Professional Grade GMC trucks. Today's announcements will build on that positive momentum by better aligning the organization to our channels. We are offering more valuable products for customers and producing better results for the business," said LaNeve, in a release.

Tom Libby, director of industry analysis at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates, says bundling Cadillac with Saab and Hummer makes sense. "There isn't a lot of overlap between those brands," he notes. "The Saab models are really positioned at the lower end of the luxury market, the Hummer models are niche models, so Caddie is GM's luxury brand. Each brand has its own identity and position in the marketplace."

He says the bottom line is profitability for dealers. "Low-volume brands like Saab and Hummer are challenging dealers to make money."

GM is also, as part of the changes, eliminating its regional general managers, as well as North American head of sales and service--a position held by Brent Dewar, who this month became chief of sales, marketing and after-sales in Europe.

Says Libby: "What they are doing is trying to reduce bureaucracy, complexity and layers. They need to be nimble and able to adjust to market conditions very quickly to compete."

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