Ewanick's ouster, marketing shakeup comes at crucial time for GM
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DETROIT -- The sudden departure of Joel Ewanick leaves General Motors struggling with uncertainty atop its marketing division just ahead of one of the automaker's busiest vehicle-launch schedules in its history.
On Sunday, Ewanick, 52, was ousted as global chief marketing officer. GM spokesman Greg Martin said Ewanick "failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee." He didn't elaborate.
Alan Batey, who in May was promoted from Chevrolet sales boss to vice president of U.S. sales and service for all of GM, was named to replace Ewanick as interim global marketing chief.
The Wall Street Journal said today GM has signed a multimillion-dollar sponsorship with Manchester United, one of Britain's top soccer teams, after altering terms of the deal negotiated by Ewanick.
In May, Ewanick secured a broad sponsorship deal with the popular soccer team. He selected Chevrolet, rather that GM's ailing Opel brand, for the soccer pact to elevate Chevrolet's global profile, the paper said.
The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and Bloomberg -- citing people familiar with the matter -- said earlier Ewanick was removed for failing to adequately appraise the financial details of the Manchester deal.
In addition to the pact with Manchester United, one of the world's most visible soccer teams, GM recently inked a sponsorship deal with Liverpool FC. Both teams are part of the English Premier League.
Under a seven-year deal announced today, which makes Chevrolet the jersey sponsor starting in the 2014-2015 season, GM will pay $60 million to $70 million a year -- at least double the current fee paid by insurance broker Aon, Reuters reported, citing a source it did not identify.
GM also will pay the club a $100 million activation fee, sources told Reuters.
GM and Manchester United officials declined to reveal terms of the deal, which is separate from the sponsorship agreement announced in May with Manchester United, Reuters said.
Terms of that five-year deal were not disclosed, but analysts said it is likely worth at least tens of millions of dollars.
The upheaval inside GM's marketing unit comes at a crucial time. By the end of next year, 70 percent of GM's nameplates will be new, redesigned or refreshed, the company says. That includes planned launches next year of GM's next-generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups as well as its redesigned SUVs, which traditionally are among its most profitable vehicles.
"Ewanick's departure may not be indicative of a problem with GM's marketing strategy or dissatisfaction with GM's market share," Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote today in a research note. "But it doesn't make things any easier."
Batey: GM lifer
Batey, 49, is a GM lifer who has spent most of his career in sales roles overseas, including a stint as head of GM's Holden Australian division before being called to Detroit in 2010.
Martin, the GM spokesman, said the company is "fortunate to have a deep bench and a leader of Alan's caliber to step in and keep things moving."
GM hired Ewanick 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.
In May Joel Ewanick caused a stir after expressing skepticism about the effectiveness of advertising on Facebook -- just before Facebook's IPO.
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 3 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 Ammann. 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, a GM spokesman confirmed. 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 the automaker's 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.
Ewanick also has presided over the controversial "Chevy Runs Deep" tag line, 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 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.
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