DETROIT - For those who thought director John Smale's upcoming retirement would stop General Motors from hiring more industry outsiders, think again.
Last Monday, GM hired beer company executive Michael Jackson to get its vehicle divisions, regional staff and dealers on the same page in North America.
In another major personnel move at GM, the automaker turned to an insider. Last Monday GM promoted John Smith, 49, vice president and general manager of Cadillac, to general manager of its much larger Service Parts Operations.
Smith succeeds Bill Lovejoy, who became group vice president of North American vehicle sales, service and marketing on Feb. 1.
GM has picked Smith's successor from inside GM. The choice will be announced later this month, spokesman Steve Harris said.
Smith was first among equals among GM's marketing division general managers. He was the only corporate vice president and the only one responsible for the brand globally.
A GM source said Smith's replacement will not be a corporate vice president. But the new executive will have global responsibilities for Cadillac.
As GM chairman from 1992-95, Smale pushed the automaker to adopt brand management and hire executives from outside of the auto industry.
Those hires included Ron Zarrella, now president of GM North America, and Karen Francis, now general manager of Oldsmobile. Zarrella came from Bausch & Lomb Inc.; Francis came from pen maker Empire Berol.
Smale, still a GM director, will retire in June.
Jackson, former vice president of market development at Coors Brewing Co., continues the trend of hiring outsiders with consumer-brand experience.
As GM's executive director of sales support in North America, Jackson will link the marketing and sales strategy of the vehicle brand teams in Detroit with the efforts of GM's regional field organization and its dealers.
Many GM dealers complain that last year's reorganization of GM's field operations and the disbanding of local dealer advertising groups has left them uninformed about GM's sales and marketing strategy.
GM said Jackson will be responsible for improving field staff and dealer communications, vehicle distribution and other sales support activities. He will report to Michael Grimaldi, vice president and general manager of North American field sales, service and parts. Grimaldi reports to Lovejoy.
Jackson replaces Cheryl Catton, who now is in charge of linking the North American sales group's efforts with GM's electronic-commerce efforts.
Since taking charge of Cadillac in 1997, Smith has set a new course for the luxury vehicle division.
Over the next three years, Cadillac will revamp its vehicle lineup and add vehicles such as the Evoq sports car and a second sport-utility. Later this year, it also will introduce a new design for its dealerships. Cadillac hopes the new lineup and new dealerships will attract younger customers.
But Smith's tenure at Cadillac also has been marred by Cadillac losing its luxury crown in 1998 to Lincoln. Initially, Cadillac claimed to have beaten Lincoln that year but later admitted to inflating its sales in the final month.
As general manager of GM's Service Parts Operations, Smith will oversee 12,000 employees, a big change from the 70-employee marketing staff he oversaw at Cadillac. The Service Parts Operations markets replacement parts and accessories worldwide under the GM and ACDelco names.
Most Cadillac dealers support the coming changes at Cadillac. 'All of the things we had hoped Cadillac would do when John came in, he has done and more,' said Carl Sewell, a Texas dealer with four Cadillac stores. Sewell is a member of Cadillac's national dealer council.