GM's Cadillac Gets New Marketing Chief -- WSJ

03/07/18 02:47 AM EST
By Mike Colias 

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (March 7, 2018).

General Motors Co. has tapped a former McDonald's Corp. executive to give the auto maker's Cadillac brand a shot in the arm.

Deborah Wahl, who has auto-industry experience including a stint with Toyota Motor Corp.'s Lexus, will take over as Cadillac's chief marketing officer later this month. The move comes 10 months after Ms. Wahl left the same position at McDonald's amid a management shake-up aimed at reviving the burger chain's fortunes.

Ms. Wahl succeeds Uwe Ellinghaus, a former BMW AG executive who led Cadillac's marketing efforts for nearly four years before leaving in December. Cadillac is expanding rapidly in China, but its attempt at a comeback in the U.S. haven't been as successful.

Once the dominant luxury brand in the car business and a prominent symbol of American success, Cadillac now lags far behind BMW, Lexus and Daimler AG's Mercedes-Benz. Cadillac has lost U.S. market share each year since 2014, even as its sales in China -- the world's biggest auto market -- have tripled over the same period.

A Detroit native, Ms. Wahl spent six years at Lexus, where she worked to make the brand more upscale, including the introduction of its first $100,000-plus offering, a hybrid sedan. She left Lexus to take the top marketing job at Chrysler, where she worked about 18 months before the company's 2009 bankruptcy. She was later marketing chief for home builder PulteGroup, and spent time at Ford Motor Co.

Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen, hired in mid-2014 to lead Cadillac's turnaround, has played down market share. Instead, he is focused on improving Cadillac's bottom line by eliminating marketing tactics that harmed the brand's image for years, such as sales to rental companies and steep end-of-the-month discounts.

Cadillac's dealers, stung by sluggish sales, have expressed frustration with the brand's marketing and have pressed Mr. de Nysschen's team for a new direction, according to people familiar with the matter. Although it is experimenting with subscription services for consumers and semiautonomous driving features, Cadillac isn't often regarded as being in a league with Tesla Inc. or Volkswagen AG's Audi luxury brand.

Ms. Wahl's appointment comes as Mr. de Nysschen prepares new-model introductions to fill out a thin product lineup, a problem that has exacerbated the sales slump. Cadillac will launch five models over the next two years, starting with the XT4 crossover SUV later this year.

Mr. de Nysschen also wants better service at Cadillac's 900 U.S. dealerships. In an interview last year, he said the brand's primary challenge is getting luxury buyers to consider a Cadillac, which has improved its vehicles but has a tough time getting a serious look from Audi or Mercedes owners. "Great brands are not built over night," he said.

Write to Mike Colias at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 07, 2018 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)

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