GM CEO Says Marketing Approach Not Result of 'One Individual'

Akerson Tells Analysts Strategy Was Team Effort -- and Will Remain in Place

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General Motors Co. Chairman-CEO Dan Akerson, referring to the impact of Joel Ewanick's exit, told analysts and reporters on GM's quarterly earnings call that the automaker's marketing is a group effort, not a one-man operation.

Asked about Mr. Ewanick's sudden departure on Sunday from his role as global CMO, GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann began by saying, "The fundamental approach is , no change. The consolidation of agency spend, all the things we did with our media buy, those are all very real drivers of efficiencies and we're absolutely going to continue with those."

But then Mr. Akerson quickly jumped in before Mr. Ammann had finished speaking. Mr. Akerson began by saying "Just to be clear, no one individual" -- and then stopped himself before continuing, "I know a lot of public views this as a personality-driven industry. It's a team effort. What you saw in the marketplace was a thought-out strategy that was agreed upon as a team."

Mr. Ewanick, the rock-star CMO hired 26 months ago, was abruptly ousted on Sunday. A GM spokesman said the marketing guru "failed to meet the expectations the company has of its employees." Since then, reports have emerged that Mr. Ewanick was asked to resign due to a botched sponsorship deal with English soccer club Manchester United that might have cost GM upwards of $600 million, according to Reuters.

Still, others have speculated that Mr. Ewanick was let go because the advertising wasn't working. GM has lost almost two full points of U.S. new-vehicle market share since last year, and its first-half sales were only up 4% at a time when the U.S. auto industry as a whole was up 15% from January through June, compared with the same time period a year ago.

Mr. Akerson added on the call, "Most of our metrics were not favorable compared to a year ago, and that is unacceptable."

GM earned $1.5 billion in the second quarter of 2012, down $1 billion from the second quarter last year. Net revenue in the second quarter of 2012 was $37.6 billion, down 4% compared with $39.4 billion in the second quarter of 2011. The automaker said the decrease was due almost entirely to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar vs. other major currencies.

"Our results in North America, our international operations and at GM Financial were solid, but we clearly have more work to do to offset the headwinds we face, especially in regions like Europe and South America," Mr. Akerson said. "Despite the challenging environment, GM has now achieved 10 consecutive quarters of profitability, which is a milestone the company has not achieved in more than a decade."

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