Shakedown At GM: Marketing Exec, Chief Designer Both Jump Ship

By Blake Z. Rong | July 30, 2012
Strange things are afoot at GM's Renaissance Center headquarters. This week Joel Ewanick, the vice president of marketing at General Motors, suddenly resigned. And just today, David Lyon, one of the heads of GM Design, was escorted out of the building. What's going on here? First, Joel Ewanick. He was brought to GM in May 2010 as GM's chief marketing officer, after spending just six weeks at Nissan beforehand. At GM, Ewanick spearheaded dramatic changes in GM's marketing strategy, including Chevy's new sometimes-cryptic tagline "Chevy Runs Deep," dismissing longtime advertising partner Campbell-Ewald from most of GM's ads, cutting their Super Bowl advertising, and—most recently, and most controversially—pulling out of Facebook marketing completely. GM had no comment on Ewanick's departure other than that he "elected to resign effective immediately." Ewanick must have left peacefully, as evident on a message he posted to Twitter.
Meanwhile, David Lyon's story is more curious. GM's wunderkund designer in Europe, Lyon was slated to become the Vice President of Design for Opel and Vauxhall, beginning in August—basically, in two days. But instead of boarding a flight to Germany, "Lyon was reportedly escorted out of GM by the design department's HR director," according to Car Design News. A day later, GM's Vice President of Global Design, Ed Welburn, issued the following terse email: "Effective immediately, David Lyon is no longer an employee of General Motors Corporation."
[caption id="attachment_104619" align="alignright" width="143" caption="David Lyon"][/caption]
What did Lyon do to incur the wrath of the General? According to Automobile Magazine, GM's North American president Mark Reuss says that Lyon left because of matters of "policy and integrity." Both men's departures are examples of how fraught things are for GM at the top: Opel is undergoing immense financial difficulty, while GM's North American sales haven't been so hot either. Ewanick faced growing pressure from top brass to squeeze more sales out of Chevrolet and other GM brands, and his sudden departure is reflective of how important the stakes are, now that the bankruptcy and recession are fading lights in the distance. “He failed to meet the expectations the company has of its employees,” said a GM spokesman, as reported by the Detroit Bureau. There's a rumor, according to that source, that Ewanick botched a deal with popular football team Manchester United and a sponsorship with Chevrolet in Europe. Amidst potential billion-dollar losses in Europe and the ongoing tragedy with Opel, Ewanick's deal with Man U—which he claimed drew a crowd equivalent to the Super Bowl, at every game—made him fall from favor with CEO Dan Akerson and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. That's what has been speculated, at least. Mark Adams will take over Lyon's position: Adams is in charge of design for Buick and Cadillac, a position Lyon was familiar with—in addition to penning European vehicles, Lyon also designed for Buick, GMC, and most of GM's interiors. GM is currently looking for a new marketing chief—don't bother sending your resumes, they go right to the shredder—but in the meanwhile, it's elected Alan Batey, vice president of sales and service, to take over global marketing duties. Don't expect things to end gracefully for GM here: it's not every day that upper brass "voluntarily resign," as GM says. Source: New York Times

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