Chrysler Appoints Its First CMO

Lexus Marketing VP Deborah Meyer Gets Nod as Carmaker's New CEO May Slash Ad Budget

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DETROIT ( -- Chrysler today appointed its first chief marketing officer, naming Deborah Meyer, currently VP-marketing of Toyota Motor Sales USA's Lexus Division, to the role.
Deborah Meyer today was named Chrysler's first CMO.
Deborah Meyer today was named Chrysler's first CMO.

Chrysler said Ms. Meyer, 44, will also add VP to her title and report to Steven Landry, exec VP-North American sales, global marketing, service and parts. She starts Aug. 28.

Declined comment
Ms. Meyer, when reached by cellphone this morning, had declined to comment. Ms. Meyer, a Detroit native, also held marketing positions at Ford Motor Co. and Ford-controlled Mazda North American Operations before her move to Toyota in 2001.

A spokesman at Chrysler said he learned today there was a search for a CMO, and that the leading candidate had not yet signed on. He declined to say whether Ms. Meyer has been approached, but said the automaker had been looking for a successor to George Murphy, 51, senior VP-global brand marketing.

Mr. Murphy resigned unexpectedly in late May "to pursue other opportunities," the company said at the time.

The CMO search was well under way before last week's surprise announcement that the automaker and its new majority owner, Cerberus Capital Management, had tapped Bob Nardelli as its new CEO, according to executives close to the matter. Plans had called for the new CMO position to report to the CEO.

"Deborah is a great addition to the leadership team," Mr. Nardelli said in a statement. "She brings a proven track record of success to support our brands both in North America and internationally."

Less to work with?
Ms. Meyer will have their work cut out for them. Mr. Nardelli is expected to slash advertising spending as he did in his last job as CEO of Home Depot, Advertising Age reported this week.

Another new challenge for Mr. Nardelli, as first reported in this week's Automotive News, is that Chrysler's warranty costs (along with former DaimlerChrysler siblings Mercedes-Benz and Smart) are running far above the industry average. One auto ad agency expert, who asked not to be named, predicted Mr. Nardelli will trim Chrysler's ad budget to try to counter-balance the higher warranty costs.

The former Chrysler Group posted a loss of nearly $2 billion in the first quarter of 2007; DaimlerChrysler, which still holds a minority stake in the automaker, cited as the main reason for the loss a $1 billion-plus in restructuring charges. In the same period in 2006, Chrysler Group reported earnings of $857 million before interest and taxes.

The CMO search was conducted by Heidrick & Struggles.
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