GM dismisses marketing boss Ewanick after 2 years
Batey takes over global post on interim basis
Automotive News | July 29, 2012 - 2:19 pm EST
UPDATED: 7/30/12 10:02 am ET - adds background
DETROIT -- General Motors has dismissed global marketing chief Joel Ewanick two years after hiring him to bring "creative leadership" to the automaker following its bankruptcy.
"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.
The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg -- citing people familiar with the matter -- said Ewanick was removed for failing to adequately appraise the financial details of a recent sponsorship deal with Manchester United, a popular U.K. soccer team.
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 of 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 for six weeks. He had previously been part of a team of Hyundai Motor America executives credited with boosting sales and polishing the Korean automaker's U.S. image.
"It has been a privilege & honor to work with the GM Team and to be a small part of Detroit's turnaround," Ewanick said Sunday in a Twitter post. "I wish everyone at GM all the best."
Ewanick did not reply to an e-mail from Automotive News seeking comment.
GM's global sales rose 2.9 percent to 4.67 million units in the first half of the year, according to Bloomberg. Rival Toyota Motor Corp. posted a 34 percent gain to 4.97 million following last year's earthquake, putting the Japanese automaker on track to reclaim the global sales title for the year.
GM has lost U.S. share this year, posting a 4 percent sales gain through six months in a market that's up 15 percent. July results will be announced on Wednesday, Aug. 1.
Ewanick's departure spotlights the volatility within GM's executive ranks under Dan Akerson, who was named CEO three 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 Thursday, the Detroit Free Press reported. He had been scheduled to join GM's struggling Opel unit as design chief this week.
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, he 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 slogan, launched in the fall of 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.
When he joined GM, Ewanick became the fourth U.S. marketing chief in a year following the automaker's June 2009 bankruptcy. The others were Mark LaNeve, Bob Lutz and Susan Docherty.
"Joel is highly regarded in industry and marketing circles and his track record speaks for itself," North America President Mark Reuss said in a statement announcing Ewanick's hiring. "We are very pleased to have his marketing acumen, creative leadership and energy at GM at this critical time."
PRESS RELEASE: GM Statement on Ewanick Resignation
DETROIT -- General Motors said today that Global Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick has elected to resign effective immediately.
Ewanick, 52, joined GM in May 2010 in charge of marketing for the company's North America unit. He was named global chief marketing officer in December 2010.
Prior to joining GM, Ewanick was vice president of marketing and chief marketing officer for Nissan North America. Before joining Nissan, he served as vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America.
Alan Batey, vice president, U.S. Sales and Service, will assume the role of global chief marketing officer on an interim basis.