General Motors dealers responded positively today to news that Mary Barra will be the automaker’s next CEO. They also praised the promotions of Mark Reuss to head of product development and Alan Batey to lead the automaker’s North American operations.
“They’re just three outstanding executives for GM,” said Steve Hurley, dealer principal at Stingray Chevrolet in Plant City, Fla., and co-chairman of the Chevrolet dealer council. “To see these three names be tapped for these types of positions is very, very encouraging.”
Dealers praised Barra’s work leading GM product development, saying the high quality of vehicles reaching showrooms during her watch is increasing competitiveness and boosting sales.
Hurley said he knows Reuss and Batey much better than Barra, but added that he was impressed by Barra when he met with her informally a few months ago, saying she was “very grounded.
“She has a very realistic attitude. If you didn’t know who she was, you wouldn’t know who she was because she does not come across as one of those people who is in the ivory tower and is out of touch with reality,” Hurley said.
Hurley credited Reuss with much of GM’s recent success in North America, and said he would be a good fit in his new role as product chief.
“He is such a product guy, and I think that move for him is going to be excellent for the company because he is so focused on the product and understands the need of the customer when it comes to the product,” Hurley said.
Hurley praised Batey’s leadership, noting that he was always willing to listen to dealers.
“He’s always looking for solutions, but he’s the kind of guy that doesn’t want to hear somebody complain about a problem and not have an idea for a solution,” he said.
Carl Moyer, owner of Karl Chevrolet in Ankeny, Iowa, said there was “no reason for me to feel anything less than excited” about Barra’s appointment. He has been a dealer for 35 years and he said the current GM product line is as strong as he can remember.
“I’ve seen it all, and I really think right now we have the best, most competitive lineup of vehicles to sell that we’ve ever had,” Moyer said.
He said he has worked with Batey and Reuss, and said he has “nothing but total respect” for them. He said he was confident that they, together with Barra, would continue GM’s growth.
“I don’t think until the dust settles we’ll really know, but both those two guys are capable of doing the task and so I’m sure that it’s going to be all bigger and better, in my opinion, than ever,” Moyer said.
Barra, 51, started her GM career as a co-op student in 1980 while attending General Motors Institute, now Kettering University, in Flint, Mich. She worked her way up through the ranks in manufacturing, product development and, briefly, human resources. Dealers praised her for her engineering background and long career at GM.
Mindy Holman, CEO of Holman Automotive Group, said she has not met Barra, but was pleased that Barra is the first female to lead a U.S. automaker.
“From a woman’s perspective, I am pleased to see GM assign a female to this huge role,” Holman wrote in an e-mail. “Of course, it’s when a move like this is not newsworthy that real progress will have been made.”
Holman Automotive Group, of Maple Shade, N.J., ranks No. 43 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the United States with retail sales of 15,544 new vehicles in 2012.