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Bob Lutz Out as General Motors CMO

VP-Sales Susan Docherty to Take Over His Spot; Lutz Remains Vice Chairman, Adviser

By Published on . 7

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Bob Lutz is out as CMO at General Motors Co., three days after the departure of CEO Fritz Henderson, as the automaker's government-appointed chairman, Ed Whitacre, wastes little time shaking up management. Succeeding Mr. Lutz in the post is Susan Docherty, VP-sales for North America, who keeps that responsibility as well as oversight of service operations. Mr. Lutz remains vice chairman and will be an adviser to Mr. Whitacre on design and global product development.

Bob Lutz
Bob Lutz Credit: Tim Klein
Mr. Lutz had publicly criticized work Ms. Docherty approved for Buick that was based on a photo shoot created by independent agency Topolewski, Ferndale, Mich. "That Buick commercial tested very well, which is not the same as saying that it's an effective ad," Mr. Lutz said in a live web chat this summer. Ms. Docherty was general manager of Buick-GMC division.

Mr. Whitacre, 67, announced the changes today, saying in a statement, "I want to give people more responsibility and authority deeper in the organization and then hold them accountable." He added, "We've realigned our leadership duties and responsibilities to help us meet our mission to design, build and sell the world's best vehicles."

GM said he would not be available for further comment until next Tuesday, when he will host a conference call with a business update. But the Texan, who could remain interim CEO for up to a year, according to The Wall Street Journal, is clearly trying to create a sense of urgency to move GM forward and shake its stodgy, insular corporate culture. Industry observers have noted that despite its reorganization, it seemed like business as usual at GM, and wondered how radically the culture could change with the same longtime players in place.

GM's VP-marketing, sales and service position had been vacant since July, when a reorganized GM exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings and Mr. Henderson split the sales and marketing organizations, moving Mark LaNeve from the post to VP-sales. Mr. LaNeve left GM in October to join insurer Allstate as CMO.

Ms. Docherty is part of what insiders call the "Cadillac mafia," a group of fast-track GM vets who worked on the luxury marque during its product renaissance earlier this decade. She had been marketing director and brand manager of the Cadillac Escalade SUV during that era before being named general manager-Hummer in 2004. In fall 2006, she moved to California as general manager of GM's Western region before moving back to Detroit in summer of 2008 to head what was then Buick-Pontiac-GMC.

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