Duncan Aldred's growing status at General Motors was underscored just last month, when he had global duties added to his role as U.S. head of the Buick brand.
The promotion gives Aldred leadership of one of GM's biggest business units: Buick in China, where it sold about 920,000 vehicles last year, more than Chevrolet and nearly four times more than Buick sold in the U.S.
Meanwhile, he is spearheading GMC's first major brand-advertising campaign in at least a decade, part of Aldred's plan to boost growth of GM's resurgent and profitable truck brand.
"This is an historic investment in the brand," he said last month.
A lanky native of a gritty, industrial area of northwest England, Aldred impressed his GM bosses during a turn as managing director of the Vauxhall brand in the U.K. from 2010 to 2013, where he was able to reverse years of market share losses. In 2013, he was asked by then GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky to take over sales and marketing at Opel in the heat of GM's turnaround effort. Opel eked out a market-share gain that year, its first in 14 years.
Aldred "really stepped up," Girsky, now a GM board member, told Automotive News last year. When Girsky asked Aldred what he wanted to do next, Aldred requested his first-ever U.S. assignment.
Since his arrival, Aldred has overseen the rollout of a major, ongoing advertising campaign for Buick (the creative theme had been developed by the time he started the job in March 2014). Both Buick and GMC notched 11 percent gains in the U.S. last year, nearly double the industry's growth.
He also spearheaded the fast-tracked development of the Avenir concept sedan that wowed onlookers at the Detroit auto show this year as a statement for Buick's future design direction. That car might not get built any time soon, if ever. But Aldred achieved his goal: "To create a big splash."
- Mike Colias