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GM dismisses marketing chief Joel Ewanick

Sun, 29 Jul 2012

UPDATED -- General Motors has dismissed global marketing chief Joel Ewanick two years after hiring him.

"He failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee," spokesman Greg Martin said Sunday, without elaborating.

In a short statement, GM said Alan Batey, GM's vice president of U.S. sales and service, has been appointed interim global chief marketing officer. In May, Batey was promoted from vice president of Chevrolet sales and service to his current role.

A source with knowledge of the situation said that talks had been ongoing for days about the handling of Ewanick's departure.

GM hired Ewanick, 52, as U.S. marketing chief in May 2010. By the end of that year, he was put in charge of global marketing, then a new position.

Ewanick joined GM from Nissan, where he worked briefly after being part of a team of Hyundai Motor America executives credited with building the Korean automaker's U.S. image.

Ewanick did not reply to an e-mail from Automotive News seeking comment.

Executive changes

Ewanick's departure spotlights the volatility within GM's executive ranks under Dan Akerson, who became GM's CEO a few months after Ewanick joined.

Since then, Akerson has installed a new product development chief and replaced the head of GM's troubled European operations twice.

Last year, former CFO Chris Liddell, a high-profile recruit from Microsoft Corp., left the company and was replaced by current CFO Dan Amman. GM also has replaced its heads of manufacturing and engineering and twice appointed new chiefs of the OnStar unit during Akerson's two-year tenure.

In addition, designer Dave Lyon left the company on July 26, the Detroit Free Press reported. He had been scheduled to become design chief for GM's struggling Opel unit.

Ewanick recently led a massive consolidation of the external marketing and advertising agencies that work with GM. Last spring, he moved the account for Chevrolet's creative work from dozens of agencies globally to just one firm, Commonwealth of Detroit.

He also put all of GM's media buying duties under London-based Aegis' Carat unit, ending its work with dozens of smaller agencies. Combined, those moves are expected to save GM $2 billion over five years, the company has said.

Causing a stir

In May, Ewanick caused a stir after expressing skepticism about the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook and confirming that GM was pulling its direct advertising from the site, just days before the social media company's initial public offering.

In the same interview with The Wall Street Journal, Ewanick confirmed that GM would not advertise during next year's Super Bowl. Both disclosures caught GM officials off guard and sent them scrambling to clarify the company's position. Ewanick later expressed regret for how the news came out.

The spokesman said Ewanick's dismissal was not related to the incidents.

Ewanick also has presided over the controversial "Chevy Runs Deep" tagline, which critics have said falls short of providing an identity or narrative for GM's mainstay brand.

The tagline, launched in fall 2010, has been under review since spring, when GM awarded the Chevy account to Commonwealth. Ewanick previously had said that he expected a decision on its fate sometime this summer.

By Mike Colias- Automotive News