By on May 5, 2010

Since GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre began firing holdover executives, starting with former CEO Fritz Henderson, TTAC has argued that VP for Marketing Susan Docherty is a prime example of a GM lifer who “owes her career to GM’s timid and inept culture.” Having already lost the Sales VP position to GM’s rising star Mark Reuss, “leaving Docherty time to focus on the marketing side and polish up her resumé,” we figured she was on her way out. And sure enough, several embarrassments later, the announcement came today. What we didn’t expect: that former Hyundai “Marketer of the year” Joel Ewanick would replace her.

Ewanick received widespread praise for his implementation of Hyundai’s “Assurance” program, although he did not (as has even been reported here at TTAC) come up with the insurance program. That honor goes to one Vince Beretta of Walkaway, who came up with the concept in November of 1998 and peddled it independently until Hyundai white-labeled the concept as Assurance. In an interview with TTAC, Beretta did give Ewanick credit for messaging the program “perfectly,” by highlighting its affinity with Hyundai’s value-oriented marketing, and directly addressing the insecurity caused by economic downturn. AdAge, Brandweek and Forbes must have agreed, having all named Ewanick Marketer of the Year (or equivalent) for 2009.

Ewanick left Hyundai in March for Nissan, and by all accounts he hit the ground running there. How GM was able to poach him away from his new employer after just over a month on the job is something of a mystery, but the hiring is clearly something The General’s top brass are excited about. North American operations boss Mark Reuss enthuses:

Joel is highly regarded in industry and marketing circles and his track record speaks for itself. We are very pleased to have his marketing acumen, creative leadership and energy at GM at this critical time.

And what of the now twice-replaced Ms Susan Docherty? Sadly, it seems that she is not necessarily on the way out. According to GM’s release, Docherty’s “new position at GM will be announced soon.”The release also notes that:

With extensive sales, service and marketing experience, Docherty has held positions of increasing responsibility in Canada, the U.S., Europe and Asia.

What it leaves out is that Docherty is fresh out of “positions of increasing responsibility.” In fact, it’s fair to say that, in line with the infamous Peter Principle, Docherty has been promoted to her “natural level of incompetence.” And Reuss’s kiss-off to his former equal reads more like a letter of recommendation than a sign that she’s wanted or needed at the RenCen:

Susan has been deeply involved in GM’s sales and marketing initiatives for many years. With her drive and focus, she has laid the groundwork for solid plans and rejuvenated our agency relationships, placing us in good stead for the future. We look forward to her contribution across the business moving forward.

We’re still looking forward to her departure from General Motors. Meanwhile, the arrival of Ewanick is possibly the best news GM has had in ages. Given GM’s recent marketing faux pas, and the government monkey on its back, GM needs someone with Ewanick’s proven record of success. After all, Beretta tells us that GM had a shot at Walkaway’s program, and turned it down, leaving the best auto marketing idea in years on the table for Ewanick and Hyundai. Perhaps with Ewanick at the marketing controls, GM will be willing to take chances on similarly innovative practices. One thing is for certain: marketing GM products has got to be one of the toughest tasks in the industry. Seeing a top dog in the field, at the top of his game taking on the challenge gives us something of a tiny thrill. GM’s turnaround just gained a little more credibility.

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40 Comments on “Docherty Out As GM VP For Marketing, Hyundai’s Ewanick In...”


  • avatar

    Chalk it! ‘Bout damn time, GM.

  • avatar
    daga

    Why would they let her swap out agencies and craft the Chevy launch campaign if they were on the prowl. That’s rather dumb. Hiring Ewanick is a great move however. Let’s hope he gets Farley-level free reign to move GM away from it’s 30 second TV ad marketing focus.

  • avatar
    educatordan

    Wow, TTAC is gushing about this. At least he’s not a lifer. Let’s see if he can get anything done or he gets swallowed alive by the beastly culture of GM.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    OOH, I know!!! They can make Docherty Marketing manager for Saturn or maybe Pontiac?

  • avatar

    I’d love to hear Ewanick’s motivation for the move. Has fixing GM been a personal dream? Or just a better pay package?

    Has Ewanick had a string of successes, or have the awards largely been based on a single successful campaign?

    None of Hyundai’s premium models–Azera, Veracruz, Gen Coupe, Genesis–has been a success, and some might even deem them sales failures. What about this?

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Granted, not all of Ewanick’s work has been successes, but he can hardly be blamed for the lack of sales for the Veracruz and Azera.

      While nice vehicles overall, they weren’t exactly class leaders in their respective segment – plus, have you ever seen a commercial featuring either the Veracruz or Azera?

      Sales of the Gen coupe have been a disappointment, but a lot of that can be attributed to the power deficiency and the awkardly shaped grill/nose.

      Otoh, sales of the Genesis sedan have been a modest success for Hyundai (esp. considering it was launched at the onset of the economic downturn) – outselling the Lexus GS and Infiniti M by more than a 2:1 margin in 2009; and there’s a good chance that the Genesis will even outsell the new M this year (based on how early sales figures for the new M).

  • avatar
    bmoredlj

    Maybe he can teach GM some math vis-à-vis government paybacks, 5-year vs. 10-year warranties, and 32 mpg crossovers that can’t seem to get over 26 in the real world.

  • avatar

    Yeah, great news for GM unless he jumps ship AGAIN within a month.

  • avatar

    nice move Mr Reuss. most likely it was your call to do this and a most positive step indeed. let’s hope this is the end to the Gerosa Mafia and the last of Red Toe Tag. best of luck to you Mr Ewanick.

  • avatar
    rpol35

    I don’t know that I would get that excited. If this guy has some real product development acumen and authority, then yes, this is good news. If he’s just running the marketing end of the business, it becomes more of a “lipstick on a pig” exercise.

    Docherty? Go figure, anyone else with such a poor track record would have been summarily dismissed; Whitacre has proven that’s how he operates. They’ll find a position for “her”.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      AS an engineer at GM, IMO, folks like Spenchian, LaNeve, Henderson, Andersson, etc. have been given time to find other positions outside of GM. Giving Docherty an un-named, as of this moment, position is considerate in my opinion and in line with what has happened to others in similar positions.

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Signs of intelligent life in the tubes. Hummer Susan first. Aztek Mark next, hopefully.

    • 0 avatar

      Reuss was given the Aztek, can’t hold him accountable. he has created his organization and is filling it as he sees best. with increased production of hot selling models, reborn dealers (which I believe was his doing), a streamlining and rationaliztion of incentives, an economic upturn, and some luck, he could actually pull this off.

    • 0 avatar
      rmwill

      Just like his father Lloyd, he has presided over failure at every turn. The only thing worse than a GM lifer is a family line of GM lifers. Remember, he is the genius behind the stupid idea of bringing bland high cost cars from Australia to US. Anyone with a calculator or a set of eyes could tell that that would be a losing strategy. Now? Lets bring over another high cost Aussie turd to compete in the super low margin Cop car business. Great guy that Aztek Mark.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    They must have given him half the kingdom to join up.

    If he can figure out a way to sell the Volt, he’ll have earned his keep. Good luck with that one.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    I suspect that Susan has a contract with GM and we are seeing the Kabuki dance on stage whilst severance packages are argued over in the pit. At least I hope so!

    Lutz and Docherty out in the same month. There is hope after all!

  • avatar
    texlovera

    “How GM was able to poach him away from his new employer after just over a month on the job is something of a mystery…”.

    Now that’$ funny.

  • avatar
    nevets248

    Christmas came early this year!!!!!!
    another totally clueless individual like Lynn Meyers or Bob Kraut.

  • avatar
    Billy Bobb 2

    Bet he got a call from a high ranking, ex-community organizer Chicago gangster now “working” in DC.
    Real hard to say no to that call.

    Unless you’d like an aspirin overdose.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    Docherty has photos.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    Have I developed CRS? Didn’t Whiteacer say that the music had stopped for good and that all of the chairs were occupied by the people who were going to lead GM back to the real world.

    • 0 avatar
      Christy Garwood

      Technically, yes I believe you will find that statement by Whitacre in some public forum. The way I have interpreted the messages given to employees is that results matter – a lot. It is no secret that GM presidents and VPs are responsible and accountable for results. The musical chairs game has stopped, but the push to get results hasn’t. Everyone from the top down is responsible for results. If you don’t get results, then, well, you will be replaced.

  • avatar
    ajla

    My thoughts on this development.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    Totally off topic: I bear a passing resemblance to this guy, right down to the goatee. Today being my wife’s 50th birthday, I’ve been toying with the idea of shaving it in honor of the occasion. So what do the Best and Brightest say, stay or go?

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    Well, this should be interesting. GM has had, patently, the worst automotive marketing executives in the industry for at least a decade.

    Good marketing people are worth their weight in gold: they’re not about just the commercials; their job is find who the market is, what they want, and how to convince them to pay a fair price for it. No one at GM seemed to understand this: you got people like Lutz, who wasn’t half bad at product design but tended to think about cars he himself wanted, and people like La Neve, who probably weren’t bad at sales but was completely out of his depth in marketing.

    This type of person is who GM ought to have had when Lutz was brought in. The problem is that Ewanick a) isn’t a sexy choice, and Lutz, if nothing else, was good at preaching to the choir and b) GM’s NIH syndrome would have seen him rejected.

    This is the kind of thing Whitaker ought to be doing, and at least early on, seemed to be bent on before he got distracted .

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      It sounds like Mr Ewanick may be a very smart hire. I sure hope so. GM can use all the help it can get right now and frankly there are way too many people wishing them ill (in some cases deservedly so).

      I suspect that with all of the changes that Whitacre made in his early days, he has to let the dust settle a little and see how things are shaping up. But I think he’s reserved the right to make further changes as necessary. Which is the way I’d expect most CEO’s to work.

      (humor)I’d bet Mr Ewanick doesn’t look as good in a leopard print blouse, though… (/humor)

  • avatar

    Having very competent and talented people is not enough. To be successful a business needs to know how to use them.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      That is a rather circular argument. The part of GM which has to “know how to use them” is the executive team. Ergo, the makeup of said executive team is critical.

    • 0 avatar

      it’s getting better, that’s for sure. Wagoner, LaNeve, Dewar, Docherty, Middlebrook, Lutz, Cowger, Clarke…all needed to go. the new blood certainly has their work cut out for them. so far Reuss has shown positives. he did the LOI, has energizied employees into solving concerns thru social marketing and blogs, has increased capacity, and impresses me as sincere, compassionate, and a real car guy. I could be wrong but he may just prove to be the right man for the job…let’s hope so.

  • avatar
    vento97

    Only after the vestiges of the old empire have been swept away will there be hope for GM…

    That being said, it looks like they’re ACTUALLY making an effort to correct the errors of decades past…

    Let’s hope the beatings (purgings) will continue so morale WILL actually improve..


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