PEOPLE: PLAYER PROFILE: HUTCHINSON RETURNING TO SATURN'S ORBIT AT GM: NEW MARKETING DIRECTOR REJOINS UNIT AFTER LEADING MARKET RESEARCH FOR GM EUROPE

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Lisa Hutchinson has learned that you can go home again, with "home" being Saturn.

The Detroit native, who has been with General Motors Corp. since 1980, has returned to Michigan and GM's import-fighting Saturn Corp. as marketing director. She left Saturn in 1995, after five years with the subsidiary in various market research positions, and headed to Zurich as market research director at GM Europe.

On her return to Saturn, Ms. Hutchinson succeeds John Howell, who has moved to GM in Brazil as marketing manager.

"It was my desire to come back to Saturn, and I was delighted the opportunity came through," she said.

REFOCUSING AFTER STRIKE

Now with all the strike ugliness apparently history, GM-including Saturn, whose workers voted overwhelmingly to strike but never actually walked out-can again focus on the business of making and selling cars. For Saturn, that means attracting Americans who feel less impelled to drive small cars.

Saturn management and workers "have a proven track record of 10 years of being able to work through issues in a spirit of partnership," Ms. Hutchinson said. "The partnership continues to be an important part of our brand, and we'll do everything to preserve that."

In Europe, Ms. Hutchinson managed all GM's research. The biggest difference between that job and her new one is that research is now just one of six teams reporting to her at Saturn-the other five are national advertising; regional advertising; merchandising; database/relationship marketing; plus leasing and financial issues.

Ms. Hutchinson is most proud of launching GM's brand management structure in Europe, in April 1996. She studied GM's North American brand setup; helped develop the organizational structure and processes; and handled research for brand positioning.

GMI STUDENT

Ms. Hutchinson started at GM in 1980 as a co-op student in the General Motors Institute, working on worldwide marketing and product planning. After graduating from GMI in 1984, she became a product planning analyst. Ms. Hutchinson switched to product research analyst in marketing research and planning after getting her MBA from the University of Michigan in 1988.

Working at Saturn means close ties with the carmaker's U.S. agency, Publicis Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco.

Riney "is almost as involved in our brand as we are . . . and has such a great history and partnership with us," Ms. Hutchinson said. "That's a contrast to Europe, with multiple cultures, multiple languages and multiple countries."

A TURNING POINT

Ms. Hutchinson's return to Saturn comes at a major turning point for GM's small-car company. The brand will unveil its first bigger car, the midsize L series, in mid-1999.

The challenges of launching the bigger car, she explained, will be to build a general awareness as well as reach prospects who wanted to buy a Saturn in the past but didn't because they needed a bigger car.

Ms. Hutchinson should be up to the task. "I'm not an engineer," she said. But "I can translate customer needs and wants."

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