DETROIT -- Alan Batey isn't getting comfy in his role as General Motors' interim chief marketing officer.
"Longer term, I don't think you're going to see me as the CMO," Batey told Automotive News. He is also GM's vice president of U.S. sales and service.
GM's top brass turned to the high-energy Brit to steer its marketing enterprise through the turmoil created by the late-July dismissal of former top marketer Joel Ewanick. Batey confirms that his role is transitional and that GM has yet to choose a marketing leader.
"We're looking at various alternatives," he says. "There are a lot of different ways of doing this."
The selection of Batey, 49, underscores the trust he has earned inside the company for galvanizing Chevrolet's sales force and dealer network after GM's 2009 bankruptcy. He was Chevy's U.S. sales boss from March 2010 until June, when GM North America President Mark Reuss elevated him to sales chief across GM's four brands.
Batey says there have been no major changes to GM's marketing strategy since Ewanick's departure. He reiterated the company's support for a recent overhaul of its outside advertising agencies, which consolidated GM's media-buying duties and Chevy's creative ad work from more than a hundred small firms to just two big ones.
Batey is noncommittal about "Chevy Runs Deep," the tag line that has been the target of ample criticism since its fall 2010 debut. In March, Ewanick said that the theme was being reviewed and its fate would be decided over the summer.
"The timing of that was perfect for our 100-year centennial" in 2011, Batey says, because it allowed GM to "talk about the nostalgia of the Chevrolet brand."
But its time may have passed.
"I don't see Chevy Runs Deep as being an overpowering statement," he says. "It is something that supports our brand and gets people talking."
Batey is a third-generation GM employee. His grandfather worked on a GM assembly line when it was converted to produce British tanks during World War II. His father was a GM engineer for more than 25 years.
Batey has spent nearly all of his 33-year GM career oversees, having worked in sales and marketing positions in Korea, Germany and other countries. He has emerged as a top lieutenant of Reuss, having served as sales and marketing chief when Reuss ran GM's Holden Australian unit in 2008-09.
Reuss now is leaning on Batey to oversee the sales strategies across Chevy, Cadillac and Buick-GMC as GM plans a major rollout of new and redesigned vehicles.
"With all the new products that we've got coming to the market over the next couple of years, Mark really felt that we needed to reinforce the go-to-market leadership team," Batey says.
To prepare for that, Batey has been perhaps GM's most forceful proponent of the controversial program that has GM's dealer network pouring more than $3 billion into new and renovated stores.
He also has been pressing to transform the image of Chevy dealers through better customer service, partly through a partnership with Walt Disney Co. Owners of most of Chevy's 3,000 dealerships this year have been sent to Disney theme parks in Orlando or Anaheim, Calif., to attend three days of training seminars.
Batey jokingly calls dealers who show up for their Disney training "hostages" because they're required to attend under a GM incentive program that pays dealers for redoing their stores and meeting training and other requirements. He's fully aware that many dealers show up reluctantly. But in exit surveys, he says, 95 percent of attendees give the program favorable marks.
The key lesson dealers take away is "about exceeding those customers' expectations at every possible little touch point that you have," Batey says. For example, many dealerships leave complimentary bottles of water in vehicles after service appointments. But some Chevy dealerships in the South make sure the bottles are chilled.
He's considering expanding the Disney partnership to GM's other brands.