Cadillac Puts Wahl Up as New Marketing Chief

New CMO building on predecessor's efforts.

by on Mar.07, 2018

Cadillac named Deborah Wahl, former marketing chief at McDonalds, to be CMO. She's held several posts within the auto industry.

Cadillac needs all the help it can get from a lot of different places, and it’s getting it.

General Motors’ luxury brand announced it is bringing on Deborah Wahl, an executive with experience inside and outside the automotive industry, to serve as Global Chief Marketing Officer at a critical time in the brand’s transformation.

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Wahl’s appointment is effective March 26 and comes on the heels of Cadillac’s effort to create a splash during the annual Academy Award telecast. The show drew a disappointingly small audience.

Wahl will be based in Cadillac’s New York headquarters and report to Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen. She will assume responsibility for the strategic marketing for the Cadillac brand around the world. She will be building on the work that has been done over the past several years, not starting from scratch.

(Cadillac’s XT4 set to break cover during Oscars. Click Herefor the story.)

Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen said the luxury division is enjoying strong sales, but still has work to do.

“Deborah’s diverse experience, as well as her proven track record of building successful global brands, makes her a natural addition to our leadership team,” De Nysschen said.

“Cadillac has made incredible progress over the past several years in our long-term journey to regain our position as the pinnacle of premium luxury brands. Deborah’s experience and strategic vision will build on that progress and help propel Cadillac forward during our next phase of global growth.”

Wahl, who brings more than 20 years of experience with high-level marketing and brand work, serves on the Boards of Directors of Groupon and media software company Mediaocean. For three years, she also was Chief Marketing Officer at McDonald’s, where she worked on projects aimed boosting consumer perceptions of the brand.

Before that Wahl served as the CMO at PulteGroup, one of the country’s largest homebuilders. Wahl served as vice president and CMO at Chrysler Group, prior to its takeover by Fiat, and as VP of Marketing at Lexus after having held multiple Marketing and Communications roles at Ford.

(Click Here for details about Cadillac taking aim at new sales record.)

Wahl succeeds Uwe Ellinghaus, a former BMW executive who led Cadillac’s marketing efforts for nearly four years before leaving in December due to illness.

Cadillac has expanded sales in China, tripling during the past three years. But its comeback in the U.S. hasn’t been as successful and it has lost market share in the U.S. since 2014, which has served to intensify tensions with dealers. It is also more dependent than ever on the continuing success of the singular Cadillac Escalade, which now faces competition from a revived Lincoln brand.

The Cadillac nameplate also continues to lag behind BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz in prestige in the minds of American buyers.

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.

(To see more about Cadillac’s plans to focus more on SUV sales, Click Here.)

Wahl’s appointment comes as 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.

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