New faces -- a bunch of them -- lead post-bankruptcy Chevrolet
Soon after he was named head of Chevrolet sales and service in March 2010, Alan Batey delivered a blunt message to Chevy's dealers.
"If you want a friend, you need to buy a dog," Batey remembers telling dealers after he arrived. "But if you want a business partner, I'm going to be that."
Batey, a 48-year-old Brit who spent more than 30 years in sales with General Motors overseas, is one of several new faces leading GM's flagship brand into its second century. He has emerged as a stabilizing force amid a flurry of turnover in Chevrolet's upper ranks since GM left bankruptcy in July 2009.
Since then Chevrolet has had five different people lead the brand either as its primary manager or as its top marketer. Batey's appointment marked a new strategy in which the sales and marketing functions were split between two people.
Batey's bare-knuckled approach has rankled some dealers. Still, many have embraced his no-nonsense manner and his motto to "stay hungry and humble" as Chevrolet's sales and market share improve steadily.
"He gives Chevrolet exactly what we need right now," says Greg Heinrich, a dealer with three Chevrolet stores in Nevada and co-chairman of Chev-rolet's National Dealer Council. "He's an energizing force and brings a worldwide perspective that isn't the 'Old GM.'"
Marketing duties for Chevrolet now fall to Chris Perry. Perry, formerly Hyundai Motor America's No. 2 marketer, was appointed in August 2010 by Joel Ewanick, who had been Perry's boss at the Korean automaker up until spring 2010 and now is GM's global marketing chief.
GM CEO Dan Akerson's emphasis on making Chevrolet a more global brand partly explains the repeated shuffling in the marketing ranks. In January, Ewanick named Perry GM's U.S. marketing boss, overseeing all four brands. But over the summer Perry returned to Chevrolet, this time as the brand's first global marketing chief.
"Chevrolet has been distributed globally, but we haven't managed it globally," Perry says.
Perry, 51, says the "turmoil and the turnover was necessary to get to that next level," and that Chevrolet now has solid leadership after two years of repeated shakeups.
Ed Peper, who ran Chevrolet from 2005 to mid-2009, left for a Cadillac sales job as part of a broad shakeup of GM's management. He was replaced by Brent Dewar, who had been GM's European sales chief. Dewar headed Chevrolet from 2003 to 2005.
In December 2009, Dewar retired just five months into his tenure, making way for Jim Campbell, whose eight-month stint was best known for an internal memo he and Batey penned that was leaked to The New York Times. In it, they urged GMers to use the name "Chevrolet" in favor of "Chevy," even in casual conversations with friends and colleagues, as part of a strategy to build a consistent brand identity.
The news sparked an outcry from Chevy enthusiasts and marketing experts. Some even suggested it was a ruse aimed at generating free publicity. GM promptly issued a press release saying it wasn't banning the Chevy moniker. "We love Chevy," it said.
Campbell, who in August 2010 was replaced by Perry, was Chevrolet's last "brand manager" -- at least for now. The cleaving of the sales and marketing functions was an effort to define more clearly the role of brand bosses, who historically ruled GM's brands as separate fiefdoms.
Because GM has stripped down to just four brands -- Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- they require more strategic oversight than one leader can handle, Batey says.
"Chris very much focuses on the marketing piece and the go-to-market plan, and I focus on the execution," Batey says.
Chevrolet's recent sales growth tells the story. Sales were up 15 percent through September, compar-ed with a 10 percent gain for the overall market. Chevrolet's U.S. market share was 14.2 percent, up from 13.6 percent in the year-earlier period.
"It's the right strategy for the right time," Batey says. "And it's yielding results."