With the reshaping of the top ranks at General Motors still underway, it's reassuring to see some familiar faces rising: Susan Docherty, former head of the Buick-Pontiac-GMC group is now the corporate vice president for sales, service and marketing. Just six days into her new job, she sat down today for a chat on the web to discuss topics ranging from sporty Buicks to sales to GM's emerging new corporate atmosphere.

The much-talked-about Buick Regal just debuted at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show and already the performance-minded among us are looking for a Regal Grand Sport, or better yet, a Grand National. While Docherty didn't go so far as to say they're coming, she did say, "Buick has definitely had a sporty past and we do plan to make sure it is an ingredient included in our future!"

For more on Buick's plans for the Regal, and its higher-performance variants, you can check out our interview from  the L.A. Show floor with GM's own Jim Federico.

Longer-term plans for GM are to build market share by developing strong products that beat the competition on features and are priced competitively at every level. Sounds straightforward enough, but how does GM plan to do it? A look at the most recent crop of vehicles out of the four core brands is a good start.

On the sales front, Docherty says the Cadillac SRX, CTS Wagon, Buick LaCrosse, GMC Terrain/Chevrolet Equinox, and Chevy Camaro are all doing well. Moving units is the ultimate road to recovery, after all. Docherty didn't mention any hard numbers, however, saying only that it is "kind of early to comment on anything else" for December sales.

Docherty also stated flat-out that there are currently no plans to get GM back into the minivan business. Instead, crossovers like the Traverse, Acadia, Enclave and Equinox/Terrain can serve the same duty. Despite this clear crossover focus, Docherty did say GM would "continue to keep minivans on [its] radar."

A hint was dropped in response to a  question about the plans to produce the "GMC Concept", most likely the GMC Denali Acadia, shown at a media technology preview earlier this year. Docherty strongly indicated that the vehicle would be headed to production in some form, saying "the GMC Concept was well received...stay tuned." If such a vehicle were to come to fruition, it might see its first public appearance as a production-direction concept at the upcoming Detroit Auto Show, so keep your eyes peeled. We've already confirmed the Denali Acadia for production with Dayna Hart, however, so if that is the car Docherty's talking about, it could arrive in full production trim in Detroit.

Underlying the whole chat was a theme from Docherty that change is afoot at GM--a sense that perhaps hasn't yet been readily apparent. With the shakeups at the hands of chairman and interim CEO Ed Whitacre, however, it's beginning to feel a lot more like there are some fundamental shifts occurring in GM's corporate culture.

As Dochery put it, "In my new role I plan to be spending even more time with customers and dealers because this is where I can make the biggest impact, help strengthen our brands, and earn consideration in the hearts and minds of consumers." Whether that will be enough to change the public's perception of GM as a whole or its individual brands will remain to be seen, and shown in monthly sales totals.



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