Alan Batey wears dual hats. In late July, he stepped in for the ousted Joel Ewanick, becoming General Motors' interim global chief marketing officer and leading GM's marketing efforts. He is also vice president of U.S. sales and service. Over the next 18 months, he'll help GM ramp up for one of its largest-ever rollouts of new and redesigned vehicles.
Batey, 49, discussed GM's marketing and sales strategy with Staff Reporter Mike Colias and Industry Editor James B. Treece.
Q. What's going right on the marketing side right now?
A. When I look at all of our new vehicle launches, frankly, since we came out of bankruptcy, we've had incredible momentum and success. [Since] the end of 2009 on the Chevrolet passenger-car [side], we've seen sort of a 70 percent increase in consideration. Most of our new products have been attracting more than 50 percent new customers to GM.
A lot of people are wondering about the fate of "Chevy Runs Deep." Any status update?
No. When it was introduced, we were going into [Chevy's] 100-year anniversary, and so we were able to really focus very much on the future but also reflect a little bit. "Chevy Runs Deep" really fits very well into that. We're not locked in stone. All these things are always being challenged and debated.
The Volt is outselling the Nissan Leaf more than two to one. But it's still below what your chairman wants to see. This sounds like a job for sales and marketing.
The car has done brilliantly well. The customer satisfaction for the car is incredible. A lot of buyers have never been in a Chevrolet store before. They have a very high income: $175,000, a lot of them, and above. They are huge ambassadors.
Talk about the role that was created for you in June as vice president of sales and service, between the brands and GM North America President Mark Reuss. What are the benefits of that setup?
With all of the new products we have coming to the market over the next couple of years, Mark felt we needed to reinforce the go-to-market leadership team. We're one team with four differentiated brands that live in different swim lanes. When we go to market, we go differentiated. That's really my job.
GM has put a big emphasis on customer retention for a few years now. Can you quantify the progress?
When we came out of bankruptcy, some of our legacy [Chevy] products had about a 10-point residual-value gap versus the best. It makes leasing very difficult and very expensive to be competitive. I honestly believe residual values are a great reflection on your brand health and your level of customer satisfaction. We've now got, on average, at Chevrolet, about a two-point differential across the whole portfolio. But it's a journey.
What's the status of your facilities-image program?
The dealers have really stepped up and are doing probably the biggest rebuild and renovation of four dealer networks that the industry has ever seen. It was overdue and needed.
The majority of our dealers are absolutely committed.
It will be the minority that actually don't do it, but that's OK. It's optional. If you believe it makes sense and you want to do it, then it's a seven-year support we'll bring to the table. If you decide you don't want to do it for whatever reason or it doesn't give you a unique return, then you don't have to do it.
Any concern that some dealers who have been getting paid for a couple of years under this program might decide to walk away before doing any renovation work?
That's OK as well. If you decide that you're not going to go ahead, the money you've received up to that point is your money.
How has your transition been from Australia to running sales and marketing in the United States?
I had 350 dealers in Australia, and now I have 3,000 Chevy dealers. You've really got to work hard on great communication.
Number two, you've got best practices everywhere. Often, it's not big expensive things; it's little things. It's not about doing one thing 1,000 percent better; it's about doing a thousand things 1 percent better.