General Motors’ chief executive officer, Dan Akerson, a former boxer, has avoided a hallmark of old GM: Trying to solve problems with a knockout punch. He displayed his style of relentless jabs by promoting Alan Batey to lead the Chevrolet brand globally.
Tuesday’s announcement that Batey, the U.S. sales chief, is moving into a new post is just Akerson’s latest tweak to GM since becoming CEO in 2010. Along with the creation of a similar role to reposition Cadillac as a global brand and management changes to the top levels of product development, manufacturing and information technology, GM looks quite different from when he took over.
“These are much more quiet actions that are more likely to bear fruit, in my opinion, than the ‘We’re going to throw a hand grenade in there and dynamite the whole place,’?” said Maryann Keller, an industry consultant, who has been a vocal critic of Akerson’s early days as CEO.
Batey’s appointment may be the linchpin of GM’s reorganization under Akerson, who began about a year ago signaling the need for a new corporate structure to allow GM to better compete on a global basis against Toyota, Volkswagen and Ford.
Akerson, 64, has said he wanted to eliminate warring fiefdoms within the company and was said to be looking to reconstruct GM around global functions to move away from regional controls.
While Tuesday’s announcement doesn’t abolish regional controls, it does elevate the Chevy brand leader to the highest ranks of GM management: the executive operating committee. Batey becomes the 19th member, reporting directly to Akerson.
GM needs to keep regional leaders on the ground who understand local markets and tastes while having an overarching brand leader who can devise a strategy that applies to multiple countries, said Keller.
“This has a shot at working,” she said. “It makes a lot more sense, because if you put the right person in place, that person is going to be the one to understand what the goal is and get people motivated to actually buy into it.”