DETROIT -- General Motors has chosen a new executive, Mark LaNeve, to jump-start sales in North America. But so far, neither LaNeve nor GM is saying what he might do.
LaNeve, 45, rocketed to the top of GM's North American sales operations after rejoining the company in 2001. He had worked at Volvo for 3½ years, becoming CEO at Volvo Cars of North America. LaNeve is known for his brash personality and strong relationships with dealers.
As general manager of Cadillac from May 2001 to August 2004, La-Neve helped turn around the once-stodgy brand. Says Jacques Moore, of Moore Cadillac in Richmond, Va.: "Mark was handed a nice product portfolio, but he successfully changed an old man's brand into one of the hottest nameplates in the country."
Now, as GM North America vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing, LaNeve has much bigger GM problems on his hands:
LaNeve was promoted after his predecessor, John Smith, was named group vice president of global product planning.
Under Smith, GM marketers responded to the declining power of incentives with a series of unorthodox product promotions.
But their record was mixed. Some, like a 72-hour sale that offered six-year, 0 percent loans, pumped up sales. Others fizzled, like the Hot Button win-a-car contest and the Lock 'n' Roll offer that allowed car buyers to lock in current interest rates on their next GM purchase. GM finished 2004 down in sales and share.
LaNeve was not available for comment after his appointment. At a GM press conference last week, the company did not say what changes it might make to boost faltering sales.
GM's February sales fell 12.7 percent compared with February 2004, which GM said was a strong month. The industry was down 1.9 percent in February.
In 2004, GM sales, including Saab, fell 1.3 percent to 4,655,459. Market share fell from 28.3 percent in 2003 to 27.5 percent in 2004.
Brent Dewar, 49, marketing general manager of Chevrolet, took LaNeve's job as vice president of marketing and advertising for GM North America. GM has yet to name the new head of Chevrolet.
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