GM Marketing Chief Resigns as CEO Rebuilds in Slump

General Motors Co. Former Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick
Joel Ewanick, former chief marketing Officer for General Motors Co. Photographer: Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg

General Motors Co. Chief Marketing Officer Joel Ewanick resigned because he didn’t “meet the company’s expectations of an employee,” according to an e-mailed statement by the automaker yesterday.

Greg Martin, a GM spokesman, declined to comment further last night. GM senior managers, who had been happy with the marketing executive’s work, requested Ewanick resign after reviewing a sponsorship agreement that failed to meet company policies, said a person familiar with the departure, who requested not to be identified discussing a personnel matter.

“It has been a privilege & honor to work with the GM Team and to be a small part of Detroit’s turnaround,” Ewanick said in a post on Twitter. “I wish everyone at GM all the best.” Ewanick didn’t return e-mail and telephone messages left yesterday.

The loss of the marketing chief complicates Chief Executive Dan Akerson’s efforts to stem U.S. market share losses at the Detroit-based automaker and end deficits in Europe that have totaled $16.4 billion since 1999. Ewanick is departing as a resurgent Toyota Motor Corp. is poised to reclaim the title of world’s largest automaker from GM.

GM slid 1.6 percent to $19.36 at the close in New York.

Manchester United

Ewanick resigned effective immediately, GM said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. Alan Batey, vice president of U.S. sales and service, will assume the post on an interim basis, according to the statement.

CNBC, citing a person it didn’t identify, said Ewanick’s exit was related to a marketing deal with the Manchester United soccer club.

GM said in May it reached a five-year sponsorship with Manchester United allowing signage for the company’s Chevrolet brand at the club’s stadium and access to the team for television, print and other media for use worldwide.

Manchester United said today that Chevrolet will be the team’s jersey sponsor for seven years starting with the 2014-15 season. GM will replace Aon, whose partnership with United began in the 2010-11 season, United said.

No financial terms were disclosed for either deal.

Under Ewanick, 52, the automaker decided in May to end advertising on Facebook Inc. after a regular spending review. GM began discussions about resuming ads on the social-network website, two people familiar with the talks said this month. Ewanick also decided not to advertise during the National Football League’s Super Bowl championship game next year on CBS.

Toyota Surges

GM spent $10 million on paid ads on Facebook last year, a person familiar with the spending has said. That’s a fraction of the about $1.8 billion GM spent in 2011 on advertising in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

The first-half U.S. market share for GM, the largest U.S. automaker, fell to 18.1 percent from 19.9 percent a year earlier, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

GM in 2011 regained the title of the world’s largest automaker by sales after natural disasters in Asia curtailed Toyota’s production of vehicles and parts. Toyota surpassed GM in worldwide sales in 2008.

Toyota’s worldwide sales surged 34 percent in 2012’s first half to 4.97 million, ahead of GM’s 4.67 million, putting the Toyota City, Japan-based automaker on pace to regain the top spot.

European Changes

The change in the marketing post comes after Akerson this month also removed Karl-Friedrich Stracke as head of European operations.

GM installed Vice Chairman Steve Girsky as interim president of GM Europe. Stracke, the man he replaced, remains with GM and will perform “special assignments” and report to Akerson, GM said in a statement earlier this month.

Thomas Sedran, a consultant who joined the company’s Ruesselsheim, Germany-based Opel unit in April, was named deputy chief executive officer. Sedran is leading Opel until a permanent chief is found. The automaker’s losses in Europe have totaled $16.4 billion since 1999.

GM has plunged 41 percent since its November 2010 initial public offering. GM reorganized under a U.S.-backed bankruptcy in 2009 and the U.S. still holds a 32 percent stake.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE