Mahoney Named New Chevy Global Marketing Chief

Mahoney defied gravity – and recession – at VW and Subaru.

by on Feb.25, 2013

Chevy's new global marketing chief Tim Mahoney.

General Motors is reaching outside its ranks to bring in an outside fireman to help shore up marketing at the big Chevrolet brand – which suffered an unexpected decline in U.S. and global market share last year. Tim Mahoney, who helped both Subaru and Volkswagen defy gravity during the most recession recession, will become Chief Marketing Officer Global Chevrolet and Global GM Marketing Operations Leader, effective April 1.

Mahoney, who gave no sign he was preparing to leave Volkswagen of America, Inc. during appearances at the Chicago Auto Show earlier this month, has had something of a hot hand in the past five years during a recession-ridden era when car sales have been hurt by weak consumer confidence.

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For the past two years, Mahoney served as VWoA’s executive vice president and chief product and marketing officer, overseeing a wave of clever and creative advertising that finally helped the German automaker overcome years of inertia to chalk up the healthiest sales growth it has experienced in the U.S. market in four decades.

But in typical fashion, the blunt spoken Mahoney also acknowledged during an interview last year that VWoA was still not profitable.

Before joining Volkswagen, Mahoney was at Subaru, which scored a string of sales increase while he was serving as top marketing officer. It was, in fact, the only automaker that came through the entire recession posting sales gains every single year.

Mahoney had returned to Subaru in 2006 after a stint at Porsche in which he could claim at least a share of credit for that maker’s strong performance.

Mahoney began his career in the car business at Subaru in 1984 as a marketing research analyst, and was rapidly promoted through the organization taking on a number of management roles in areas including marketing, advertising and merchandising.

“Tim’s experience and passion for the automotive marketing business, combined with his innovative and collaborative style, has made him one of the most respected marketers in the business,” Alan Batey, GM Vice President, U.S. Sales and Service, and interim GM Global Chief Marketing Officer.

“His background and experience is a perfect fit for Chevrolet at the perfect time. With more than 20 new product launches around the world in 2013, Tim will play a key role as we continue to grow the brand globally,” Batey said.

In his new job, Mahoney will report to Batey, GM officials said. Chris Perry, the current chief of Chevrolet marketing, will become vice president of Chevrolet’s U.S. marketing and report directly to Mahoney, GM spokesman Pat Morrissey said. Mahoney also will be responsible for GM’s marketing operations, including media buying, Morrissey said.

Mahoney also will be responsible for coordinating Chevrolet’s marketing efforts outside the U.S. as the maker moves to shed its image as an all-American brand. Nearly two-thirds of all Chevrolets are now sold outside the U.S. and Mahoney will be responsible for implementing the new “Find New Roads,” communications platform around the world.

Mahoney’s appointment is consistent with other initiatives recently announced to align and grow Chevrolet globally, including the selection of Commonwealth, a newly formed advertising agency, to service the brand’s advertising around the world.

What’s been missing under General Motors chief executive officer Dan Akerson, is any sense of continuity and stability on the marketing side.

Joel Ewanick, who had shaken Chevrolet marketing to the core by dismissing its long time advertising agency, Campbell Ewald, soon after joining GM in 2010. Ewanick subsequently signed Chevy on as a major sponsor in European soccer before leaving GM under a cloud last year.

Akerson, who takes a keen interest in GM’s marketing initiatives, has been criticized for moving executives without auto industry experience into key posts.

Last fall, GM’s CEO tapped Bob Ferguson to the newly-created position of VP to head Cadillac globally, overseeing retail, marketing, brand management and advertising around the world. Ferguson, a former AT&T executive and GM lobbyist, also reports directly to Akerson.

The new Chevy and Cadillac global chiefs will replace a single global CMO at GM. Last year, Akerson moved Alan Batey to VP-US sales and service and interim global CMO. GM is still searching for a new CMO to replace Ewanick, Morrissey said.

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