DETROIT - Pontiac and Chevrolet are brands. The Grand Am and Malibu are not.
That's how General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz views the world. And that helps explain why GM will dismantle the remnants of its "brand management" system this week.
On Wednesday, May 1, the company no longer will have brand managers. Instead, those executives will be called marketing directors. Assistant brand managers of product will become product managers, and assistant brand managers of marketing will be marketing managers.
GM will continue to cut the number of brand managers/marketing directors through attrition, from 40 in 1996 to about 20. GM now has 24.
The brand manager system has been under fire since Ron Zarrella created it in 1996. Zarrella, who resigned as president of GM North America on Nov. 13, initially brought in several managers from packaged-goods companies who knew little about selling cars. The system eventually produced mid-level executives with limited clout in marketing and product decisions.
"The biggest driver for this (title change) is that instead of the vehicle line being the brand, the division is the brand," said spokeswoman Peg Holmes. The brand manager title signaled the nameplate as the brand.