General Motors Co. hired former Nissan Motor Co. and Hyundai Motor Co. executive Joel Ewanick to replace Susan Docherty, who will be reassigned after about two months as vice president of marketing.
Ewanick, 49, will oversee GM’s efforts to burnish the advertising and image of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC, the four brands it chose to keep after Detroit-based GM restructured in bankruptcy last year. He will report to North America President Mark Reuss.
The hiring follows Chief Executive Officer Ed Whitacre’s two restructurings of the sales and marketing group as he tries to boost sales, return to profitability and sell stock to the public as soon as this year. Docherty, 47, was named marketing vice president March 2.
“GM was searching for a master marketer, someone who could move the brands forward,” said Dan Gorrell, president of Auto Stratagem, a marketing consulting firm in Tustin, California. “Ewanick fits that bill. He understood what Hyundai needed from a brand perspective.”
Ewanick started at Nissan’s U.S. sales unit March 22 as vice president of marketing for the Nissan division. Before that, he was vice president of marketing for Hyundai’s U.S. sales division from 2007.
Ewanick created the “Hyundai Assurance” program in January 2009. It allowed buyers who lost their jobs to walk away from their finance contracts. The move helped Hyundai boost sales last year when the recession ravaged industrywide demand.
“It’s a great coup for GM,” said George Glassman, a Hyundai dealer in Southfield, Michigan. “He did a great job for Hyundai.”
The program’s success prompted GM and Ford Motor Co. to follow the Korean automaker with similar marketing. GM called its program GM Total Confidence, covering car payments for nine months when a buyer became unemployed. Ford introduced its Ford Advantage plan the same month, agreeing to cover car payments for 12 months.
Under Whitacre, GM has hired, ousted or reassigned more than 30 managers, mostly in sales and marketing. GM’s U.S. market share fell this year to 18.7 percent for the first four months of this year from 19.1 percent a year earlier.
‘Make a Difference’
Whitacre, 68, wrote to staff on March 31 that “a smart company changes and adapts to the needs of the business. So while there will always be individual moves within GM, I want to reassure you that the major leadership changes are behind us,” in a letter obtained by Bloomberg.
In October, Docherty was promoted from general manager of Buick-GMC to vice president of sales, replacing Mark LaNeve, who had left to join Allstate Corp. In December she was named vice president of sales and marketing, before having sales responsibility taken away in March.
“Much of the groundwork has been laid for GM” with new models such as the Buick Regal, Chevrolet Cruze compact and Chevy Volt electric car set to be introduced, said David Fischer, a Troy, Michigan-based dealer who owns GM franchises and a Hyundai dealership. “Ewanick comes with an impressive resume. He comes at a time when he can make a difference.”