Musical Chairs

There is considerable buzz in offices around the auto industry today with the announcement that Joel Ewanick is moving from Nissan North America, where he was vice president of Marketing, and up to Detroit, where he will be the vice president of U.S.

There is considerable buzz in offices around the auto industry today with the announcement that Joel Ewanick is moving from Nissan North America, where he was vice president of Marketing, and up to Detroit, where he will be the vice president of U.S. Marketing for General Motors.

Much of the reason for the particular attention to this particular individual—who was 2009 Marketer of the Year according to Advertising Age, which knows more than a little something about things like that—has to do with the fact that he’d been with Nissan since just March, having moved from Hyundai Motor America. It was truly at Hyundai where Ewanick worked considerable marketing magic.

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Arguably, had it not been for much of the work that Ewanick and his team had done at Hyundai, that brand would be more of a shrug in the market than the fast-moving, full-bodied player that it is today.

Two things strike me about this change of affairs.

  1. 1. This is further evidence that Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, is not afraid to make rather significant changes. Ewanick is replacing Susan Docherty, and it is worth noting that Docherty, a Sloan fellow (and let’s not forget that Alfred Sloan certainly put GM on the map via his “a car for every purse and purpose”—a marketing play) who moved up from having been general manager of Buick-GMC until last October, is certainly a talented, capable individual. Yet Reuss evidentially knows that GM has to keep making adjustments, even if those adjustments aren’t tweaks, but total twists of the dial. That wouldn’t have happened in years past.
  2. Ewanick made his bones at Hyundai. Hyundai’s April 2009 sales were up 30% compared with 2008. It is the sixteenth month of year-over-year retail market share gains for the company. Yes, that’s right, it has been gaining share in a market that had been otherwise shrinking, and its gains continue to grow. This leads me to wonder about John Krafcik, Hyundai Motor America president and CEO, and one of the smartest guys in the industry. Heck, if we were like Advertising Age and awarded people with titles like K “Marketer of the Year,” Krafcik would have already had our “Smartest Guy in the Industry of the Year,” although that would probably be a bit much to engrave on a plaque. Not only does he understand product, but when it comes to process (he was a lean practitioner before anyone had ever heard of The Machine That Changed the World—and his research helped make that book what it is). Anyway, Krafcik has been at Hyundai since April 2004, when he joined as vice president of Product Development and Strategic Planning (and had we been running our sister magazine Time Compression when he had that job, we could have named him “Smartest Product Development Guy”). Yes, we think he is one smart guy. So does some smart company make a serious run at Krafcik?