Cadillac's new North America vice president faces a steep task that will be vital to Cadillac's electric future: Prepare dealers to sell electric vehicles.
In his more than 16 years with General Motors, Mahmoud Samara, 43, has driven record sales in Canada, stabilized Cadillac's U.S. Western region and helped improve GM's digital retail tool. He replaces Rory Harvey, who was promoted to vice president of global Cadillac last month. Samara will oversee Cadillac sales, service and retail marketing in North America, along with dealer network development globally. He reports to Harvey, 52.
Samara was GM's global director of customer experience since November. From 2017 to 2019, he was Cadillac regional director, responsible for sales, service and retail marketing in the Western region. He also held leadership posts with GM Canada.
"As Cadillac stands poised to redefine American luxury, the evolution of our dealer network will be a critical component to our success," Harvey said in a statement. "Mahmoud brings a unique combination of experiences that will help us elevate to the next level. He has a proven track record of innovation in every role he has held."
Samara said his top priorities will be enhancing dealer engagement, improving dealer profitability and preparing dealers for EV sales and service. Cultivating dealer engagement is one of his strong suits, said Samara, who drove sales records when he was managing director of Cadillac Canada from 2014 to 2017.
Cadillac unveiled the Lyriq EV this month and has said that its lineup will be completely electric within a decade. Samara aims to get dealers on board to sell EVs early, and he has more than two years to do that before Lyriq production begins in late 2022.
"We have to engage them because they are the investors and partners, and they're going to execute that," he told Automotive News.
GM sees a dealer network as a competitive advantage for EV sales, Samara said. He expects most dealers to embrace the EV plan. Still, "there might be some dealers out there that they feel for some reason that they're not ready," he said. "We'll help them to get ready, but if that's something they have no desire to pursue, that will be their prerogative. Our approach is to make sure we have a plan that ... fits across our dealer partners. They are a very critical part of it."
A digital customer experience also will become more important as Cadillac transitions to EVs, Samara said. He was behind GM's enhancements to its digital retail tool, Shop-Click-Drive.
At the start of the pandemic, GM updated the tool to make it more transactional. Since then, dealers' Shop-Click-Drive leads have increased threefold, he said.
The latest iteration includes pricing transparency with third-party websites, an option for customers to test drive a vehicle on their own terms and a real-time credit application.
"It takes the customer way deeper into the funnel," Samara said.
When a customer is ready to continue or finalize the transaction at the dealership, the dealer can access all the information the customer provided on Shop-Click-Drive.
Especially as GM launches EVs, "Cadillac needs [to] and will play a big role in the digital experiences with our customers," Samara said.