DETROIT -- Steve Hill was always pretty sure he knew the best way to get people into General Motors vehicles -- whip out his GM employee ID card and give them the discount.
The 22-year GM marketing veteran had long been fascinated by how effective the "family and friends" rate could be. So when GM needed a new customer incentive, Hill was ready with an idea.
As Ford Motor Co. and the Chrysler group scrambled last week to match GM's employee pricing blowout, the man who created the fuss was at home in his driveway, quietly buffing and polishing his 1999 Pontiac Trans Am.
Hill, the low-key executive who thought up GM's triumphant Employee Discount for Everyone promotion, was taking a breather after a whirlwind five weeks. But he was reluctant to take credit for one of the most successful promotions in GM history.
"You're making me blush," said GM's 45-year-old director of brand and retail marketing.
All Hill's brainstorm did was lift GM's sagging market share higher than it has been since April 1998 and -- in one bold stroke -- wipe out the company's huge excess inventory.
GM had zero momentum before Employee Discount for Everyone. Now it has momentum in droves.
Not so back in early May. With their backs to the wall, the company's top marketers huddled in the office of Mark LaNeve, GM North America's vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing. As they sat on the 39th floor of GM's Renaissance Center headquarters in Detroit, they were feeling lousy. The company's market share had plunged to 25.1 percent in April, and the numbers coming in from the field were dreadful. Forward orders showed that second-quarter fleet sales were tanking.
"We needed to do something," says Pete Gerosa, vice president of field sales, service and parts.
Enter Hill, a GM lifer who started as a Cadillac district manager and has spent much of his career in the field.