Joel Ewanick
In the auto business, shocking news rarely arrives on Sunday. But this past Sunday was an exception, when General Motors (GM) announced the sudden resignation of its very high-profile marketing chief, Joel Ewanick.

With a $4.5 billion budget, GM is one of the world's biggest buyers of advertising, rivaled only by giants such as Coca-Cola (KO) and Procter & Gamble (PG). Managing and coordinating all of GM's marketing efforts all around the world is a huge job. But the outspoken Ewanick seemed to have it all under control -- until Sunday.

A Major Figure in GM's Turnaround

Officially, according to GM, Ewanick "failed to meet the expectations the company has for its employees" -- in this case, failing to properly review the financial details of a new sponsorship deal for soccer in Europe.

That could be a serious oversight, and it's hard to tell for sure without knowing the details. But it doesn't necessarily seem like enough to get a well-regarded executive fired.

The trouble was, Ewanick wasn't well regarded in all quarters.

It's true that he had spearheaded a major global rethink of GM's ad purchasing and made changes that are expected to save the company $2 billion over the next five years. But he'd also made enemies, with his sharp-tongued reviews of marketing proposals, cheeky ads that taunted key competitors including Ford (F), and abrupt and arguably ill-timed decisions, such as pulling GM ads off of Facebook (FB) right before the social-media company's IPO.

Worst of all for a marketing whiz, his signature campaign -- "Chevy Runs Deep" -- wasn't resonating with customers. That, not the soccer deal, may have been Ewanick's real downfall.

Raising Standards at General Motors

GM CEO Dan Akerson might well have forgiven a prickly style -- and he was full of praise for Ewanick just a few weeks ago -- but a failure to generate results just won't fly in Akerson's buttoned-down, post-bankruptcy GM.

GM's U.S. market share has fallen sharply, to just 18.1% in the first half of 2012 -- down from almost 20% a year ago. Combined with the company's ongoing troubles in Europe, that has taken a lot of the wind out of GM's turnaround sails and has hit the automaker's stock price hard.

Akerson is a sharp leader with a clear vision for GM. A former U.S. Navy officer, Akerson believes that restoring GM to greatness is his civic duty -- and he isn't known for his patience. Just a few weeks ago, he abruptly removed the well-regarded head of GM's European operation, Karl-Friedrich Strasse.

Why? Rumor has it that Strasse was canned because the turnaround plan he proposed wasn't bold enough. It didn't measure up to Akerson's standards.

Apparently, when all was said and done, Ewanick didn't, either.

At the time of publication, Fool contributor John Rosevear owned shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Ford and General Motors and have recommended creating a synthetic long position in Ford.


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15 Comments

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abcadams1

Maybe GM will finally hire a woman CEO since woman are the main car buyers and influencers now.

August 01 2012 at 11:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tom E. Cathey

GM needs to offer better up dated products. Like the Chevy pickups. Their bodys and motors have changed very little in the past ten years. Ford, is ahead instyle. They have a motor thats six cylinder with eight cylinder power. A big savings in fuel. Just a sample.

July 31 2012 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dus48

well we will be bailing out more companies.so people who have worked all their lives can go back to work.and they think people are stupid to beleive what the media says about the economy..the entire thing is a propped up economy.like a house of cards.keep printing.

July 31 2012 at 4:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wrestleprocbt

It doens't matter who is in charge of marketing. If you have boring cars, no amount of advertising will sell them. Whats the old phrase? You just can't polish a ?????

July 31 2012 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jaap Timmer

Opel's CEO was Karl-Friederich Stracke, not Strasse!

July 31 2012 at 2:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Howie Sheinfeld

Chevy runs deep. This slogan inspires me to think of a pick-up truck spinning its wheels while stuck in deep mud. Any executive who signed off on that campaign deserves to be fired.

July 31 2012 at 2:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

Sorry next bailout you'll have to tax China because we don't have a job!

July 31 2012 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
chris1011

Bitch moan complain - conservatives are such sour people. Got no joy in your life?

July 31 2012 at 2:21 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

The outsourcers outsourced so much their competitors used the work experience to build better cars. You can't beat lower currency and slaves thanks for being partially responsible for" Just In Time Poverty and Unemployment !"

July 31 2012 at 2:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

You don't provide jobs it's simple we don't buy the cars!

July 31 2012 at 2:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
chris1011

Bitch moan complain - conservatives are such sour people. Got no joy in your life?

July 31 2012 at 2:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Iselin007

They got rid of Pontiac because they just wanted cut jobs and import crap under their name.

July 31 2012 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Iselin007's comment
chris1011

Pontiac was imported from Australia.
Here is something for you, maybe it will help:
http://www.spontaneoushappiness.com/sh/ecs/main/home_ns.html

July 31 2012 at 3:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply