updated 5/5/2010 6:49:00 PM ET 2010-05-05T22:49:00

General Motors Co. has hired the marketing whiz who helped Hyundai nearly double its market share in the U.S.

The taxpayer-owned automaker said Wednesday it is bringing on Joel Ewanick, the former head of marketing for Hyundai Motor America who developed the successful campaign that promised to take back cars from customers who lost their jobs. The campaign, called Hyundai Assurance, was instrumental in boosting Hyundai sales last year as the recession ravaged rivals.

Joel Ewanick, 49, will leave his current job as head of marketing at Nissan North America, a position he took just two months ago. He spent three years at Hyundai before that, where he racked up numerous awards and became a high-profile figure in automotive marketing circles.

During his time with the Korean automaker, the company's market share grew from 2.7 percent to 4.4 percent through March of this year, when he left for Nissan. In that period, the company went from a brand for the budget-conscious to a serious contender on many shopping lists in the U.S.

His signature campaign was Hyundai Assurance, which was designed to ease the economic worries that kept car buyers largely at home in 2009.

"They've been doing it smart. They've been doing it well," said Aaron Bragman, an automotive industry analyst for the firm IHS-Global Insight in Troy, Mich.

GM copied Hyundai's program to buy back cars if customers lose their jobs, and its Buick marketing campaign of understated elegance is similar to the campaign for Hyundai's Genesis luxury car.

Ewanick joins GM at a critical time, as it aims to lift sales and focus its marketing efforts on Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac and GMC. GM's April sales rose 7 percent, though the four core brands saw sales jump 20 percent, in line with the broader industry.

He replaces Susan Docherty starting May 24. Docherty had run both sales and marketing at GM, but saw her duties shrink to just marketing in March. GM says it is still deciding on her new role.

A Nissan spokesman said Ewanick tendered his resignation on Wednesday and no replacement has been named.

Ewanick's biggest challenge will be Chevrolet, Bragman said. GM recently fired the brand's longtime ad agency after several lackluster campaigns.


AP Auto Writer Tom Krisher in Detroit contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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