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General Motors Appoints Deborah Wahl As Global Chief Marketing Officer

Deborah Wahl

General Motors has appointed Deborah Wahl as its global chief marketing officer, a position that has not been filled at the company since Joel Ewanick was released from the company in 2012.

Wahl previously served as the chief marketing officer for Cadillac, a position she took over in March 2018 following a three-year stint as the CMO of McDonald’s USA.

GM has not had a CMO since former CEO Dan Akerson fired Joel Ewanick over the Chevrolet-Manchester United sponsorship deal in 2012. At the time, GM said Ewanick “failed to meet the expectations the company has of an employee.”

GM CEO Mary Barra announced Wahl’s appointment in an internal memo sent out Wednesday, which was obtained by Automotive News.

“By aligning marketing across GM under Deborah’s leadership, we will build stronger brands while ensuring more effective, efficient and agile customer engagement,” the memo said.

The departure of Chevrolet CMO Tim Mahoney in December of last year may have been the catalyst for Wahl’s promotion. Mahoney, who formerly held high-ranking marketing positions at VW, Porsche and Subaru, had taken on some of the work that was left following Ewanick’s firing.

Cadillac will now receive yet another new chief marketing officer after Uwe Ellinghaus resigned in December of 2017. Melissa Grady, who currently serves as director of Cadillac media and performance marketing, will take over from Wahl. Grady moved into her current role in September of last year after previous stints at MetLife, Motorola and Jackson Hewitt.

Wahl will report to GM’s current president of the Americas, Barry Engle. The respective marketing bosses for the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac and OnStar brands, along with the CMO of GM Financial, will report to Wahl.

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Source: Automotive News

Sam McEachern: Sam loves to write and has a passion for auto racing, karting and performance driving of all types.

View Comments (13)

  • if she is responsible for that mew Cadillac commercial were in trouble still , we would neve see something like that from Lexus-MB -Audi - Infinity ..

  • Let her start by fixing model names and the marketing offered for GM's products. For instance, with Buick, the convertible should have been called "Verano," which is Spanish for "summer." The Enclave should have been called "LaCrosse," which is French for "the cross (over)." A sport sedan with a waterfall grille should have been called "Cascada," which translates to "waterfall." The ad campaign for the Rendezvous could have used the line "Rendezvous: where luxury and utility intersect." Bring back the name "Electra" for an EV. And find something to use the name "Riviera" for. You don't just walk away from classic model names after 50 years. Now, why does every vehicle have to start with the letters "En----"? By using similar names, it makes all of the models seem the same, when they are not. And support each product with advertising that tells us why we should buy the vehicle or what good features it has, etc! Also, clarify Buick's tagline - a short time ago, it was "Your Kind of Luxury." (Did Cadillac complain?) Now what is it? "That's not a Buick!" They should do much better!

  • No great loss for Cadillac to lose Deborah ‘I’m Lovin’ It” Wahl but it represents more turmoil as Ms. Grady is now their third marketing boss in two years and she has only about a year with the company. No doubt she’ll again change Cadillac’s marketing direction and perform another advertising reboot. BMW has had the same slogan since 1974 and everybody knows what it is. Cadillac has had more than anyone could count since then and few people remember any of them.

    I’ve said I no longer have any hope for Cadillac and the revolving door management is an element of why I feel that way.

    • So, GM moved Wahl out of Cadillac for a poor marketing strategy, and seems to have promoted her in the process? That seems like a weird decision.

      • The Peter Principle: Promote a person to their highest level of incompetence. I am sure that Wahl is a good friend of Barra's .

      • As a GM employee i can attest this is not uncommon. They pull this stuff all the time. Its their corporate culture. A promotion is a way of making it someone else’s problem

        • And it seems these days, you do not get a high position of authority unless you are a woman. Social engineering you know.

  • That "real people, not actors" campaign was... not good. I want to see Rob Dyrdek flipping Sonics over jumps again.

    • Unfortunately, it will take a VW or Nissan style crises for that to happen. Now mind you, I would not be knocked off my seat if that were to happen at GM, but the conditions of the bankruptcy financing should have been the two be separated permanently. I do not see a lot of good things happening to GM in the long term with Machete Mary and here Wrecking Crew at the helm.

  • Another potential General Motors misfire given Ms Wahl's last job prior was the same position for McDonalds and the mind goes blank in trying to think of any successful marketing or sales strategy McDonalds may have had over the past couple of years; but if sales improve over the next 12-18 months Wahl can stay.. otherwise she will need to freshen her resume.