Burger oversaw many product launches at Chevrolet during his tenure.
Retired General Motors executive Robert Dean Burger, an outspoken advocate for auto dealers who led Chevrolet during its “Heartbeat of America” era in the 1980s, died on Friday, May 25. He was 93.
Burger was born in Ionia, Mich., in 1924 and spent his entire 43-year-long career at GM. Burger took on top brand positions for the company in more than a dozen cities across the country.
“He was a straight-shooter. No games. No hidden agendas,” said longtime friend Tony Hopp, former CEO of Campbell-Ewald, Chevrolet’s longtime ad agency, in 2011. “He was great to work with as a client because straight shooters are always the best.”
Burger attended General Motors Institute in Flint, Mich., where he joined the Fisher Body division and trained as an industrial engineer. Sponsored by Oldsmobile, he graduated from GMI’s Four-Year Cooperative Engineering Program in 1946.
Burger joined the Oldsmobile sales department in 1949. He was promoted to assistant general sales manager in 1969.
Five years later, Burger was named general sales manager of Buick, and then was promoted to vice president in charge of the GM sales and marketing staff. In 1982, Burger became vice president/general manager of Cadillac. Burger assumed the same position at Chevrolet in 1984.
Burger oversaw many product launches at Chevrolet as well as the “Heartbeat of America” advertising campaign during the recession of the mid-1980s. The 30-second TV advertisements showed cuts of every Chevy model during the time when the company’s market share was quickly sliding. Burger also experimented with joint ventures and captive imports during his tenure in the 1980s.