Breaking The Mold At Gm

IS GENERAL MOTORS taking a blowtorch to its notorious "frozen middle"? Its infamously change-resistant ranks are about to get a shakeup when GM names newly created marketing and product-development honchos Oct. 19 and 20. As these new managers gain more power, company insiders predict some of their hidebound bosses--at least 500--will take buyouts and retire.

Some 16 to 18 new development czars, or vehicle line executives, will each oversee engineering, styling, and manufacturing for a new family of cars or trucks. The jobs actually have tenure--8 or 10 years. Among the fast-track execs rumored to be tapped: Michael Grimaldi, head of planning for North American operations; James Taylor, head of truck purchasing; Larry Lyons, chief engineer for luxury cars; Gary White, Olds chief engineer; David Hill, Corvette chief engineer; and Freerk Schaafsma, minivan program manager.

Aspirants for the 34 marketing posts, called brand managers, must undergo grueling, all-day sessions doing a marketing plan for a hypothetical model. Another new twist: Each GM auto division, except Saturn, will hire one outsider as a brand manager. Most of those six are expected to have packaged-goods marketing credentials.