EDITOR'S NOTE: This article has been updated to correct the number of GM salaried employees in North America.
DETROIT -- Mark Reuss wants General Motors employees to make customers so happy with their GM vehicle that they come back for another one. So he's paying extra when that happens.
Reuss, GM North America president, has instituted a new compensation structure that ties a portion of salaried workers' bonus pay to GM's customer loyalty in both sales and aftersales service at dealerships. It covers all GM North America salaried employees, including 29,000 in the United States, from engineers and vehicle designers to field reps.
Reuss says it's the first time in his 26-year career -- and likely in GM's history -- that the company will pay employees based on how well GM retains its customers.
"That is the ultimate result of why we're doing all of this, right? People come back and buy our cars and trucks," Reuss told Automotive News last week.
The latest move builds on Reuss' unrelenting mantra of customer loyalty over the past two years, ever since he was given sales responsibility for North America.
Reuss wants GM employees to look beyond the narrow scope of their job descriptions and keep their ultimate focus on the customer. In the past, divisional barriers meant that even if employees in one area were hitting their targets it often did not translate into success for GM.
"Everybody had their own metrics, which somehow were all green," or positive, Reuss says of the old GM. "But, weirdly, when we added it up, it was pretty red."
For 2012, salaried workers in North America will get a year-end bonus if GM hits an internal customer-retention goal. The company uses both third-party sales data and internal numbers to set a loyalty target, a spokesman says.
The customer-retention piece is now part of a broader compensation system GM implemented in 2011 that pays salaried workers a bonus for hitting a companywide target for vehicle quality. Reuss added the customer component for 2012. Employees were notified of the change last month.
The spokesman would not say how much money GM is offering for hitting the targets.
To drive home the point that customer-loyalty efforts transcend the dealership, Reuss last month added vehicle-quality duties to the responsibilities of his customer-experience czar, Alicia Boler-Davis. That gives the one-time plant manager oversight of both the quality of GM's vehicles rolling off the assembly line and the level of customer satisfaction at its dealerships.