DETROIT -- The high-performance group at General Motors Co. has a broader mission again -- with a marketing veteran in charge who is eager to develop powerful small cars.
"We have a tremendous opportunity in the small and compact car market," said Jim Campbell, who was shifted last week to the new position of vice president of GM's performance vehicles and motorsports. He was moved over when GM marketing boss Joel Ewanick hired Chris Perry from Hyundai to run Chevrolet marketing.
On the eve of its trip through federal bankruptcy court last year, GM put development of high-performance small cars on ice.
GM now is considering expanding its performance line to its small cars, such as the four-cylinder Chevrolet Cruze as well as the next-generation Chevrolet Aveo. The Cruze goes on sale in the fall.
"Small cars and compact cars are going to be more and more important going forward, and we're looking at efficient performance," said Campbell, who has experience working with GM's NASCAR, American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am Road Racing teams. "We will work with those teams to provide performance variants."
Campbell said the performance division will "cross all brands" at GM but the primary emphasis will be on Chevrolet and Cadillac. While Campbell's division is not yet defined, he said he will build his own organization drawing from other GM departments.
Campbell will coordinate the performance-vehicle efforts at GM's marketing, engineering and performance parts and accessories departments.
The moves are led by North American boss Mark Reuss, who was executive director of the performance division from 2001 to 2005. It's also a reversal from the pre-bankruptcy days at GM when its High Performance Vehicles Operations unit was axed, and GM reassigned 60 engineers who had worked on special-edition, low-volume performance cars, such as V-Series vehicles for Cadillac and SS vehicles for Chevrolet, at the tech center outside Detroit.
At the time, GM said all performance projects were on "indefinite hold."
With the division strengthened, GM can look at some projects that were previously put on ice. "This is much better from an organizational perspective," Reuss wrote in an e-mail. "It's people working for a common goal under one strategic direction."
In marketing, Campbell said the aim is to improve the image of each brand.
He said: "If you come in and see a V-Series, you might not buy it, but you might consider something else" in the Cadillac showroom.