The production and concept vehicles that General Motors introduced this year blurred the line between cars and trucks as never before.
So it came as little surprise last week when GM announced it will eliminate its North American Car and Truck groups during the next 18 months. GM will replace them with two new groups:
North American Engineering, which will handle engineering of both cars and trucks.
North American Manufacturing, which will be responsible for manufacturing cars and trucks.
The merging of its car and truck engineering and manufacturing activities will begin during the first quarter of this year. Then in 2001, GM will reorganize the other offices of the Car and Truck groups, such as financial, human resources and planning, to fit into the new Engineering and Manufacturing organizations.
During the transition, Group Vice President Tom Davis, 53, will remain responsible for trucks, and Senior Vice President Don Hackworth, who will be 63 in February, will remain responsible for cars. At the same time, Davis will head GM's engineering activities, and Hackworth will head its manufacturing activities.
Both will continue to report to Ron Zarrella, president of GM North America. GM would not say what their roles will be after the transition.
Hackworth said last Thursday, Jan. 27, that the reorganization better aligns GM North America with GM's global operations and that it better addresses a market in which the differences between cars and trucks are becoming blurred.
'The distinction between a car and truck is less clear today,' Hackworth said.
That was evident at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this month. At the show, GM unveiled, among other things, the Chevrolet SSR hot rod concept, which cobbles together pieces of Chevrolet's S10 pickup and Corvette and Camaro sports cars. GM also showed the Buick LaCrosse concept, a luxury sedan with a trunk that converts into a pickuplike bed.
GM also wants to allocate its engineering and manufacturing resources more efficiently. Hackworth said things 'got a little bit clumsy' when GM tried to decide whether vehicle projects fit in better at the Car Group or the Truck Group.
'We're looking quite frankly at speed,' he said. 'We want to be able to move faster. We want to leverage our common tools and get lessons learned into the marketplace.
'The name of the game is to shorten the (product development) cycles, and we're all crunching down on it.'