The Detroit Free Press says Dave Lyon, who had recently been appointed as design chief for GM’s troubled Opel and Vauxhall brands, has left the automaker for parts, and reasons, unknown. The Freep said Lyon’s departure took place last Thursday, less than a week before Lyon was to report for duty at Opel.
Lyon, who had been with GM since 1990, was due to assume his new duties on Wednesday, August 1. He would have relocated from Michigan, where he had been managing interior design for Buick, GMC and GM North America, to Opel headquarters in Russelsheim, Germany.
The 43-year-old Lyon was appointed to replace Mark Adams, who has been named the new global design director for Cadillac and Buick. Adams will assume his new duties as scheduled but will remain the head of Opel design until a replacement for Lyon is found.
The abrupt departure adds to the problems facing GM and its money-losing European brands. So far this year, combined Opel/Vauxhall sales are down 14.9 percent and market share has dropped from 7.5 percent to 6.8 percent, just ahead of Fiat.
Automotive News, Bloomberg News, and others reported that General Motors’ Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Joel Ewanick left the company on Sunday.
While senior GM executives are said to have been happy with Ewanick’s performance including the estimated $2 billion he saved, the request for Ewanick’s resignation was apparently triggered by problems with a sponsorship agreement he struck with a British sports team. The deal is said to have conflicted with GM policies.
In an e-mailed statement, GM said Ewanick failed to “meet the company’s expectations of an employee.”
Alan Batey, vice president of U.S. sales and service, will handle Ewanick’s duties on an interim basis.
Ewanick was hired away from Nissan and given the post of vice president, U.S. Marketing in May, 2010. His mission was improving the positioning of the Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac brands and boosting consumer consideration of GM vehicles in the United States. One of Ewanick’s first moves was to dump longtime Chevrolet ad agency Campbell-Ewald and replace them with Goodby Silverstein, a company with which he had worked at Nissan. He later consolidated all Chevy advertising with Commonwealth of Detroit and placed all GM media buys under Aegis’ Carat unit.
Before working with Nissan, Ewanick spent three years at Hyundai, where Automotive News named him 2009 Marketing All-Star of the Year.
Ewanick was named General Motors’ CMO on December 17, 2010. He had responsibility for GM’s global brands including Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Holden, Opel and Vauxhall.
Since its reorganization in 2009, General Motors has had problems building a stable management team. There have been multiple CEOs, a steady stream of high=level promotions followed by demotions or dismissals, resignations and realignments. This may be one of the reasons the company’s U.S. market share has fallen 1.8 points in the first six months of 2012 and its stock price has tumbled since March and is now trading close to its 52-week low.
Toronto’s Globe and Mail is reporting that General Motors Co. today informed the Canadian Auto Workers union that it was going to close the Oshawa 2 assembly plant next June. About 2,000 workers stand to lose their jobs.
“This is absolutely sickening,” said Chris Buckley, president of CAW local 222, which represents workers at the two GM car plants in Oshawa. Local 222 is Canada’s largest private sector union local.
The Oshawa 2 plant, which builds the Chevrolet Impala and Equinox, is part of the larger Oshawa Auto Complex. was originally scheduled to close in 2008, part of a GM restructuring plan set out in 2005. The CAW persuaded GM to keep the plant open for an additional five years.
GM will shift Impala production to its Hamtramck plant in Michigan and Equinox production to the Spring Hill plant in Tennessee.
It is possible that GM will send some Impala production to the neighboring flexible assembly plant that also produces the Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS. This means perhaps a quarter of the workers who will be cut when Oshawa 2 closes might be able to transfer. However, that would require the addition of a third shift and GM won’t commit to a third shift yet.
The Equinox production is going to the Spring Hill plant because the United Auto Workers agreed to allow the company to hire a large number of workers at Tier II wages of about $16 per hour with limited benefits. That compares with about CDN$32 (about US$30.79) in hourly wages in Oshawa.
Because of differences in the relative values of U.S. and Canadian currency, it used to be less expensive for GM to assemble vehicles in Canada, but shifts in the exchange rates have made Canadian labor more costly.
The CAW calls such wage-cutting a race to the bottom and has stood fast against wage reductions. Buckley says if the CAW agreed to such cuts, it would soon be asked to match the $6 an hour paid to GM workers in Mexico.
Just a few days after announcing it was pulling its paid advertising from Facebook, General Motors has announced it won’t be playing in the Super Bowl XLVII.
In a statement issued Friday, Joel Ewanick, GM’s Global Chief Marketing Officer, said: “We understand the reach the Super Bowl provides, but with the significant increase in price, we simply can’t justify the expense.”
A 30-second spot in next year’s game has jumped sharply up to $3.8 million and, in the midst of GM’s global marketing overhaul, Ewanick, who previously was heavily in favor of being in the Super Bowl mix, said the company doesn’t feel the results justify the increased expense.
GM did not say whether its decision included other forms of participation, like pre-game spots and Chevrolet’s sponsorship of the Super Bowl Most Valuable Player award.
GM was a major buyer in Super Bowl XLVI, with new ads that included “2012,” which poked fun at GM’s prime pickup rival. It was effective enough that a Ford attorney sent GM a letter demanding the ad be pulled. Ultimately, however, Ford may have had the last laugh: one vehicle search service, kbb.com, found the ad sparked more post-game interest in the F-150 than in the Silverado.
Ford itself opted out of the Super Bowl as it focused more of its media buying on venues like Facebook and experiential marketing. If Ford stays the course, this could leave Chrysler as the only American manufacturer with a Super Bowl presence.
There’s little doubt that General Motors’ reevaluation of its advertising is part of CEO Dan Akerson’s drive to increase profitability, but Ewanick says GM isn’t cutting its spending: America’s third-largest advertiser is just looking for more bang for the buck. GM will save not only the cost of the placements, but the cost of producing the ads themselves. Major ads for the Super Bowl are an eagerly awaited part of the event. In fact, many viewers tune in more to see the new ads than to actually watch the game. This has made Super Bowl advertising highly competitive and production expenses can easily be far more than the cost of the time itself.
At the 2010 Shanghai Auto Show, General Motors presented a very interesting vision of the future of personal urban transportation called the EN-V (Electric Networked Vehicle). An upright car with a very small footprint, the EN-V was intended to be capable both of autonomous operation and as part of a networked group of vehicles. The EN-V was designed for an environment in which an electric vehicle, with its limited range, could excel. The two-seat electric vehicles were developed to show the possibilities for solving problems of urban traffic congestion, parking and air quality.
While one of the three designs presented in 2010 was a bit odd, looking like an old-fashioned, deep-sea-divers helmet mounted on a Segway, the other two were suitably futuristic. Nonetheless, the original EN-Vs were among of GM’s most talked-about concepts ever.
Normally, when an automaker displays an “advanced concept” it’s to create some buzz and bring in the crowds that hopefully will look at the other iron on the floor after they’ve seen the “Car of Tomorrow.” The vehicle makes the rounds of the auto shows and maybe even goes on the road for a promotional tour, but sooner or later, it’s off to storage or recycling and oblivion. No one expects the car company to actually build the thing as a production model.
Apparently, somebody forgot to tell that to the folks at GM China Group.
At this year’s 2012 Auto China show in Beijing, Kevin Wale, president of the General’s Chinese operation, was not only revisiting the EN-V concept, he was showing a rendering of a newer version and talking about making the EN-V the centerpiece of a feasibility project.
“Our designers and engineers are exploring a range of options for turning the EN-V concept into a reality. The EN-V 2.0 concept would use technologies such as the mobility Internet, electrification and telematics to help change the automotive landscape and ensure a sustainable future for our industry,” Wale told his audience. “The EN-V 2.0 design rendering we are showing today is our vision for the next step.”
“We’re very excited about EN-V 2.0 concept, which embodies the essence of its predecessor but was evolved into a more practical design for real-life use,” Wale continued. “The combination of sensing technology, wireless communication and GPS-based navigation establishes a technology foundation, pieces of which could potentially lead the way to the creation of future advanced vehicle systems.”
EN-V 2.0 concept does away with the front-opening doors of the original designs and adds features such as in-vehicle climate control and storage space. It also sports a new Chevrolet bow tie. In addition, the design brief calls for the car to be capable of driving in all weather and city road conditions.
“We are designing the Chevrolet EN-V 2.0 to have a modular architecture so our engineers would have the flexibility to create a simple vehicle with manual operation or a more complex, fully autonomous and networked vehicle,” said Wale.
For better or worse, the concept’s wireless communication enables a “social network” that can be used by drivers and occupants to communicate with friends or business associates while on the go.
While Wale and his folks are looking at how the EN-V could work in Shanghai, Beijing and other Chinese cities, one can’t help but think of the possibilities available in Hong Kong, Tokyo, and other crowded cities where short trips are the norm and space is at a premium.
It will be interesting to see how this project progresses. IF GM can make it work and make it affordable, they could have a real game-changer on their hands.
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