Some folks become fixtures. Some feel as familiar as the furniture. Whether John Middelbrook is one, the other, or both, depends on who you ask. Over the years, the67-year-old GM veteran has threatened, on numerous times, to hand in his key to the executive washroom, but this time, Middlebrook apparently means it.
After nearly half a century, working diligently, efficiently and effectively at various assignments that changed GM profoundly, the quiet and unassuming executive will step down, mid-year, to be replaced by John Browning, currently GM’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing. At 48, Browning was still in diapers when Middlebrook first reported for work.
In the mid-1980s, Middlebrook played a pivotal roll in the successful launch of the Saturn brand, where he helped pioneer high-touch standards for dealers that have today become the benchmark throughout the industry. Middlebrook’s career also spanned assignments with Pontiac and Chevrolet divisions, as well as the Worldwide Product Planning Group and the Marketing and Product Planning Staff. A graduate of the old General Motors Institute in Flint, Middlebrook also served as GM vice president, general manager, vehicle brand marketing and corporate advertising.
In recent years, Middlebrook, as vice president global sales, service and marketing operations, played a pivotal in opening new markets for the General. He spent months cultivating contacts in Russia, which promises to become one of GM’s major markets in the future. Last year, 56 percent of GM’s sales came from outside the U.S. and the automaker set sales records in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. During this period, the Chevrolet brand has also grown rapidly outside North America, selling a total of 4.5 million vehicles in 2007.
“John Middlebrook has made tremendous contributions to GM in a variety of roles over the past 49 years,” said the automaker’s Chairman Rick Wagoner. “He is well known and highly respected and admired throughout the industry as a true sales and marketing professional. I’ve enjoyed working closely with John in the past several years as he has led GM’s efforts to integrate and leverage our sales and marketing capabilities globally,” Wagoner.
As often happens, Middlebrook’s departure triggers a cascade of promotions and reassignments. GM also said Brent Dewar, 53, GM North America vice president, field sales, service and parts, will replace Browning as GM Europe vice president, sales,effective June 1, 2008. By Joseph Szczesny with TCC Team