Uwe Ellinghaus, the German-born CMO of Global Cadillac, isn't to be confused with one of those Europeans parodied in the controversial "Poolside" commercial that divided the political left and right.
At first blush, the gangly 45-year-old doesn't cut an imposing figure. Tall and skinny, he resembles a large bird as he hunches over a table. And he's refreshingly self-deprecating. His first name is pronounced "Ooo-vuh" -- but he doesn't bother to correct Americans who pronounce it "Ooo-vey." When he pops into Starbucks he tells baristas to call him "Greg" or "Steve."
But he's unapologetic about pushing four-wheeled symbols of affluence. And the former BMW marketing executive is about to deliver a wake-up call to American sports executives by undertaking a line-by-line assessment of every nickel Cadillac spends on sports marketing.
That's the kind of attitude he'll need to carry out his brief. According to his boss, Bob Ferguson, senior VP of Global Cadillac, Mr. Ellinghaus is charged with creating a consistent brand strategy for Cadillac around the world -- rather than the localized efforts that have produced mixed results in U.S., China, Russia, Middle East and Canada.
Work cut out for him
He has his work cut out for him given recent sales numbers. Cadillac's May sales rose 6% from a year earlier -- but dropped 2% for the first five months of 2014, according to Automotive News Data Center. The company blames the rough winter for part of the decline. And there's also been plenty of executive turnover at Cadillac recently. U.S. sales chief Bill Peffer left in mid-June; he was the third U.S. sales chief in last two years.
In contrast, BMW's sales increased 17% in May and 12% during the first five months of 2014. Mercedes' sales rose 9% and 8%, respectively. Former luxury leader Lexus is also making a comeback. Sales at the Toyota-owned brand jumped 21% in May and 19% through the first five months of the year.
With 182,543 vehicles sold, Cadillac ranked as the fourth-best-selling luxury brand in 2013, behind Mercedes (312,528), BMW (309,280) and Lexus (273,847).
Outside the U.S., China is Cadillac's biggest market by far, with sales shooting up 67% to 50,000 vehicles in 2013. That's one-quarter of all global volume. The automaker hopes to double its Chinese sales within a few years.
"Uwe is passionate on brand building and energized at the opportunity Cadillac presents as a brand globally," said Mr. Ferguson, GM's former chief lobbyist, who is spending most of his time in Washington these days, where he's deeply involved in GM's handling of the ignition-switch recall.
Passionate debate seems to be a hallmark of Mr. Ellinghaus. He served as a senior executive at BMW's world headquarters in Munich from 1998 to 2012. During his last three years, he served as CMO, overseeing brand strategy for the BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce brands.
He was working in brand strategy when BMW made the decision to sell the Rover Group, but keep -- and relaunch -- Mini. "I strongly supported this because it was evident that there was growing demand for a better-looking and better-driving small car that, prior to Mini, did not exist."