Since the beginning of his career at General Motors in 1988, Jim Campbell has served in a wide variety of positions within the corporation. Campbell's assignment as Corvette Brand Manager in the late 1990s has kept him close to the marque. Last year, as GM was coming out of bankruptcy, company officials studied the impact that performance has on the corporate brand. One of the results was the creation of a new position responsible for the company's U.S. performance activities. Campbell was promoted to the job. We had a chance to spend some time with him at Sebring International Raceway during the recent ALMS event, and he was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the direction of the brand and other topics of interest.
VETTE Magazine: Thanks for chatting with us. Can you give us an overview of your career at GM?
Jim Campbell: After graduating from Notre Dame with a Business Degree, I joined GM in July 1988 as a dealer field representative. My responsibilities included helping with sales, service, and marketing. West Texas was my first territory, and I was headquartered in Dallas. This was followed with dealer field representative assignments in Denver, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Cincinnati. I really enjoyed visiting my Hawaiian dealers every five weeks. After Cincinnati, I joined GM's central office to work on developing marketing strategies for various products.
VM: When did you assume your position as Corvette Brand Manager?
JC: In 1999 I became brand manager for Corvette and Camaro, and was responsible for marketing responsibilities for both brands. I worked closely with John Heinricy, Tadge Juechter, Dave Hill, John Cafaro, and a host of other people involved with both of those car lines.
VM: What were some of your Corvette highlights in that position?
JC: I remember my first day on the job like it was yesterday. There was nothing on my desk except one folder. The folder contained a review of a project that had not yet been launched. It detailed how Corvette should become involved in sport-car racing. This became the launch of our C5-R racing program, and it was a very exciting part of this assignment. Our first race was the 1999 24 Hours of Daytona, where we captured our first Third Place podium finish. The Daytona event was very special because of the many Corvette owners that I met, including the C5 Registry members. Daytona was a very exciting milestone for Corvette fans.
VM: How long were you Corvette Brand Manager?
JC: I left that job right after we launched the '01 Z06. During my time in that position, I was involved in the unveiling of the convertible, C5-R, hardtop, and the Z06. It was a very exciting time to hold that job. During that assignment I worked closely with Dave Hill, Tom Peters, and Harlan Charles on the C6 development. Its development was pretty far along when I left. After I left that job, Corvette never left me. To this day I have a strong affinity for the car and people who own it. It is a special vehicle that is surrounded by a group of enthusiasts whom I admire greatly.
VM: What was your next assignment?
JC: The Blazer, S-10, and the new Colorado Truck programs became my new focus. I returned to the car line and worked on the Impala and Monte Carlo. During that assignment motorsports marketing was added to my responsibilities. This included Corvette Racing, IndyCar, and NASCAR. I was involved with the Chevrolet car lines, including crossovers, which was my last assignment at Chevrolet. Next, I managed the retail-planning group that developed customer incentives for eight GM divisions. Then, I became General Manager of GM's Fleet Commercial Group, which accounted for 25 percent of our total corporate sales. Finally, I became General Manager of Chevrolet when Bret Bauer retired. This was during the time that the company was undergoing major changes. We are now seeing a positive turnaround, and I am excited about my new job assignment.
VM: What is your new job title, and can you give us a summary of your responsibilities?
JC: My title is Vice President of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports. We have a small group of talented engineers who support each vehicle-line team's performance variants. This includes the CTS-V, Corvette, and Camaro ZL-1. Their job is to take these performance variants up to the next level of performance. After their work is complete, they move on to new projects. Creating a performance vehicle requires a systematic approach that includes power, handling, braking, and chassis refinement. My job also includes responsibility for marketing GM's performance parts and accessories. Lastly, U.S. motorsports are included in my responsibilitiesùboth the technical and marketing [aspects] of GM's motorsports activities. This includes ALMS, Grand Am, SCCA, Indy, NASCAR, etc.
VM: What changes have you seen in the Corvette community since 2001?
JC: It continues to be a great group of owners and enthusiasts. During my visit to the Sebring Corvette Corral, I saw many familiar faces and friends. I had a chance to say a few words to the group. I asked to see a show of hands on how many new Corvette owners were in attendance and was surprised at how many people raised their hands. It was a special day for them because they could meet people with similar interests and watch Corvette race on the track. Our owners are full of passion about Corvette!
VM: Why is Chevrolet returning to IndyCar racing?
JC: Chevrolet has a long history at Indy. Our founder, Louis Chevrolet, used Indy as a test track. The 2012 rules mirror what we are putting into our production cars. This includes smaller-displacement engines, direct injection, turbocharging, and E85 as a fuel source. These are the technologies that we are applying to our products today and tomorrow; it is a perfect fit for us.
VM: Is there any plan to introduce hybrid technology or other fuel-saving ideas into Corvette?
JC: Within its class Corvette is a very fuel- efficient vehicle. We will continue to strive to provide the best fuel economy in class as we move forward.
VM: In 2012 the current Corvette will be six years old. With production volumes at an all-time low, is the brand under threat of extinction?
JC: Last year Corvette improved its market share in a shrinking segment. GM has a tremendous passion for Corvette. Gas prices will continue to be under pressure in the future. Our goal is to find ways to improve efficiency while still offering great performance. We fully support continuing the Corvette brand.
VM: What is your next-generation wish list?
JC: Corvette is a halo brand that has tremendous value for the company. GM offers a full portfolio of vehicles. This starts with small, efficient cars [and extends] up to our luxury brands, including Corvette. We will keep Corvette at the forefront of performance, technology, and innovation. That is the car's heritage and what fuels our owners' passion for the car. The design of future Corvettes is driven by this objective.