DETROIT -- Today’s shake-up in General Motors’ executive ranks gives responsibility for GM’s most profitable region -- North America -- to Alan Batey, a hard-charging Briton who has been the face of GM to most of its U.S. dealers during the company’s climb back from bankruptcy.
Batey, 50, zoomed through GM’s executive sales ranks over the past four years, before being named in June to a newly created position as head of global Chevrolet. He also remained head of U.S. sales for Chevy, Buick and GMC.
“North America is the foundation of the GM turnaround story,” Batey said in a statement. “We remain committed to delivering the world’s best retail experience.”
Batey’s elevation was part of an executive shuffle atop GM that installed Mary Barra, 51, as CEO, replacing Dan Akerson, who is retiring. All the changes are effective Jan. 15.
Batey will replace Mark Reuss, 50, an engineer and GM’s highest-profile car guy, who has been president of GM North America for the past four years. Batey has been Reuss’ point person in executing a transformation of GM’s dealerships and emphasizing customer retention and service.
Batey will inherit GM’s profit engine: North America accounted for 84 percent of GM’s $6.7 billion in pretax profit, adjusted for one-time items, during the first nine months of the year.
GM and its 4,400 U.S. dealerships also have made big strides in customer satisfaction, with each of the four U.S. brands -- Chevy, Buick, GMC and Cadillac -- ranking near the top of J.D. Power survey rankings for customer satisfaction.
Reuss now will lead GM’s global product development, replacing Barra. The move plays to Reuss’ strong suit, says Bob Lutz, who led GM’s global product development from 2001 to 2009.
“All of these moves look pretty darn smart,” Lutz told Automotive News. “Product development is the ideal place for Mark. He’ll do a fantastic job.”
Mike Bowsher, who owns four Chevy and Buick-GMC stores in the Southeast and will become co-chairman of GM’s dealer executive board on Jan. 1, said GM dealers have “the utmost confidence in Mark Reuss continuing to deliver awesome products.”
Bowsher called Batey “one of the most assertive auto executives I’ve met.
“He gets after it,” Bowsher said. “I think GM dealers will feel like we’re in great hands.”
Batey has held sales and marketing posts across the globe during a long GM career, including management posts at GM Europe and Opel before moving to Seoul, South Korea, in 2001 to join GM’s transition team after the automaker acquired Daewoo. He began his GM career in 1979 as a mechanical engineering apprentice for Vauxhall in England.
Batey served as chairman and managing director of GM Holden in Australia before taking his first U.S.-based job in 2010, as Chevrolet’s head of U.S. sales and service. He was recruited to join GM by Reuss, who had preceded him in the Holden job.
Batey’s elevation to the new Chevy chief position in June gave him a spot on GM’s inner-circle Executive Operations Committee, reporting to Akerson. He will report to Barra under the new structure.
Some dealers have chafed at Batey’s no-nonsense style, claiming that he has shown little interest in hearing dealer’s input.
Batey makes no apologies for his tough approach. In 2011, he recounted to Automotive News his first big address to Chevy dealers soon after his arrival in March 2010.
“If you want a friend, you need to buy a dog,” Batey remembers telling dealers at a meeting. “But if you want a business partner, I’m going to be that.”