SEOUL -- Almost a year into her job as head of General Motors' international sales and marketing, Susan Docherty sounds worried.
What's on her mind? Complacency, in general, and Hyundai and Kia, in particular.
Docherty points out that the exploding emerging markets she covers, including China, accounted for only 7 percent of GM's global sales in 2000. But its share has rocketed to 41 percent today.
And that's the problem: With business always booming, it's easy to fall behind.
"When you talk about double-digit increases and compound annual growth rates, you can lull yourself into a false sense of security by thinking, 'Oh, well, we were up another 10 percent this year,'" Docherty, 48, said in a March 31 interview at the Seoul Motor Show.
"But if the industry's growing at 30 percent, and you're only at 10, you're not keeping pace."
Her mission: Deliver sales growth at least on a par with the industry's growth in some of the world's most competitive markets -- a far-flung region crucial to the success of the new GM.
Docherty arrived at GM's Shanghai office 11 months ago as vice president of GM International Operations. That followed a stint as head of U.S. sales and marketing.
She took control of U.S. sales in October 2009 after more than a year as general manager of Buick-Pontiac-GMC. Two months later, she was put in charge of marketing as well. In March 2010, Docherty yielded responsibility for sales to North American President Mark Reuss, and in May she moved to Shanghai.
But Docherty spends only about one week a month there. The rest of the time, she is jetting around a sales territory that includes the world's hottest markets: China, Russia, India -- and every country from New Zealand and Thailand to South Korea, South Africa and Saudi Arabia.
Under her watch are 10 brands, including regional entries such as Holden in Australia.
"The complexity of this part of the world is very different from the market I came from," says Docherty, who helped lead Cadillac's renaissance in the early 2000s. "It's a monster task."
In China, about 75 percent of GM customers are first-time buyers, she notes.
So far, GM is on the right track.
Chevrolet brand sales have risen 413 percent since 2005, compared with overall industry growth there of 220 percent, she says. In Russia, the brand climbed 137 percent over that time, compared with 20 percent market growth.
In India: Chevy, up 340 percent; industry, 110.
One advantage GM has in emerging markets is that its brand image is a clean slate with customers, many of whom have never owned a car before. GM can more easily mold its message and start anew without the baggage of bankruptcy memories or legacies of 1980s clunkers.
"I've never heard anyone mention our bankruptcy in this part of the world," Docherty says of the monthly focus group meetings she attends to gauge local brand perception.
In the markets under the umbrella of GM International Operations, the company had an overall market share of 4 percent in 2005. That had climbed to 9.1 percent last year, Docherty says.
"What keeps me awake at night?" Docherty says. "It's that Hyundai and Kia ... their share is also 9.1 percent. The competition is formidable. We have a lot of work to do."