From Midnight Factory Worker To New GM Sales Chief

Susan Docherty, a longtime General Motors Co. executive who cut her teeth working midnights at one of the manufacturer's transmission plants, will take over the auto maker's U.S. sales operation. Docherty, 46, was general manager of Buick-GMC. Her new appointment will place her among the highest-ranking women in the industry. The Windsor, ON, Canada, native replaces Mark LaNeve, who leaves the auto

Susan Docherty, a longtime General Motors Co. executive who cut her teeth working midnights at one of the manufacturer's transmission plants, will take over the auto maker's U.S. sales operation.

Docherty, 46, was general manager of Buick-GMC. Her new appointment will place her among the highest-ranking women in the industry.

The Windsor, ON, Canada, native replaces Mark LaNeve, who leaves the auto maker to pursue interests outside the industry.

GM has not named a replacement for Docherty, but company President and CEO Fritz Henderson will seek a person from outside the corporation. The auto maker has taken some criticism in recent weeks for restructuring its leadership team with GM lifers.

“This will infuse new ideas and an outside perspective into our marketing efforts,” Henderson says in a statement announcing Docherty's promotion.

LaNeve is the latest in a long list of executives to resign or retire from GM as it tries to shrink its management ranks and injects fresh thinking into the organization.

LaNeve leaves to pursue interests outside of the auto industry. He joined GM in 1981 and made his mark as helping to revitalize the Cadillac while serving as that brand's general manager.

He was a relatively well-liked executive among dealers who led an unsuccessful bid at stemming market share losses.

In a letter to GM dealers, Henderson says LaNeve “contributed significantly” to the auto maker “during one of the most challenging periods in GM's history.”

Under LaNeve's watch, GM struggled to wean itself from expensive incentives that eroded margins and the resale value of its vehicles.

Docherty brings “a wealth of experience from previous marketing and sales assignments,” Henderson says. “I have confidence she will bring a new perspective to the position as she guides a new, lean and customer-focused dealer network.”

Known in the industry for her managerial confidence and keen sense of style, Docherty assumes the title of vice president-U.S. sales during the auto maker's unprecedented slide in its home market.

According to Ward's data, GM's share of the U.S. market in September was 19.7%, compared with 22.5% in like-2008. Five years ago, the auto maker controlled nearly 30% of the U.S. light-vehicle market.

Docherty's ties to the industry date back to her college years, when she worked the midnight shift at a GM transmission plant in her native Windsor to pay for tuition.

“I figured as long as I was working there, I might as well learn about the business,” she tells Ward's during a recent media preview of the '10 GMC Terrain cross/utility vehicle.

Prior to taking over Pontiac-Buick-GMC last year, Docherty served as general manager for GM's western region. Previously, she managed GM's Hummer division, taking over the SUV unit after completing a Sloan Fellowship at Stanford University.

The move will place Docherty among the highest-ranking women employed by a Big Six auto maker.

GM's Market Share
1995 32.96%
1996 31.53%
1997 31.29%
1998 29.41%
1999 29.63%
2000 28.70%
2001 28.62%
2002 28.86%
2003 28.34%
2004 27.61%
2005 26.30%
2006 24.65%
2007 23.77%
2008 22.40%
2009 19.72%
Source: Ward's AutoInfoBank
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