VW Hires Agency Executive As Senior Vice President Of Marketing

Longtime auto marketing executive Jim Zabel joins Volkswagen of America as senior vice president, marketing.

The appointment is effective Nov. 27. Zabel replaces Vinay Shahani, who left the company in late May after helping shape messaging in the wake of the automaker's emissions scandal. Shahani is now Toyota Motor North America’s vice president for integrated marketing operations.

Greg Tebbutt, VW of America's senior director for marketing transformation, strategy and communications, has been acting as the interim since Shahani’s departure, a VW spokesperson said. VW placed a help-wanted post for the position on LinkedIn in July.

Zabel, managing director of Omni Advertising in Los Angeles, has more than 19 years of automotive and related experience, having managed brand accounts for Hyundai and Honda. Earlier in his career, he worked for Nissan North America as a manager in both dealer operations and marketing for the Infiniti brand.



At Volkswagen, Zabel will be responsible for all facets of marketing for VWoA, leading the development and evolution of the Volkswagen brand to ensure long-term growth and profitability. He will report to Derrick Hatami, executive vice president, sales and marketing, Volkswagen of America.

Zabel’s experience in building effective, integrated marketing campaigns and leading brand development in the automotive industry will serve as an asset for VW’s growth strategy in the U.S. market, Hatami says.

The company has a long road ahead of it in recovering from the emissions scandal that has plagued it for several years, but it is possible, says Autotrader Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs.

“Volkswagen needs to stay the course of continuing to re-build trust with previously loyal owners and reach out to prospective new ones with its more relevant new products,” Krebs tells Marketing Daily.

Volkswagen will probably need to discount more than its immediate competition to offset the cost of the damage to its reputation, says David Kiley, principal with New Roads Media and a new-product and marketing consultant. 

“But it also needs to go back to great storytelling about this brand, some very good product and design and brand value,” says Kiley, who is also the author of Getting the Bugs Out: The Rise, Fall, and Comeback of Volkswagen in America.

It would be ”foolhardy” for Volkswagen to start chasing big sales volumes as if it is Toyota or Nissan, he adds.

“It is not a mass brand,” Kiley tells Marketing Daily. “It is a unique niche brand in the U.S., and always will be, The more it chases Toyota- and Honda-like volume, the more it will devalue the brand in the U.S. It is a mass brand in Europe, but not here.”

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