Less than six months into her new role as global CMO for General Motors, Deborah Wahl was no longer working for a brand that builds classic cars like the Corvette. In March, GM pivoted to making ventilators and masks to respond to the coronavirus health crisis. By the fall, the brand had manufactured 30,000 ventilators and 10 million masks for frontline workers and educators.
“GM looks at a crisis as a moment to contribute,” said Wahl, speaking at the Association of National Advertisers’ annual Masters of Marketing conference. “Consumers look at companies in a different light” when they see brands step up to help, she added.
Wahl previously served as CMO of GM’s Cadillac brand and Chrysler, plus stints at Ford and Toyota. She also led McDonald’s U.S. marketing as its chief marketer from 2014 to 2017.
That ambition doesn’t just show up in times of crisis. In 2017, the brand announced a platform that would strive for zero emissions, zero accidents and zero road congestion, culminating in more than $20 billion invested in all-electric and autonomous vehicles by 2025.
“In stating that mission, GM was accepting responsibility for many things that are not within our direct control, but they are within our influence,” Wahl said. “To meet this commitment, we will need to reshape global transportation, and most importantly, we need to convince everybody that drives to switch to electric.”
Among the 20 electric vehicles the brand hopes to announce by 2023 is GMC’s heavily anticipated 2022 Hummer EV, which it’s calling “the world’s first all-electric supertruck.” Launched on Tuesday, the vehicle was first teased during the 2020 Super Bowl in a spot narrated by LeBron James and was featured in a commercial during Game 1 of the World Series. Originally, the truck had been set for release in May, but was pushed back because of the pandemic.
The Hummer, first produced in 1998 and manufactured until 2010, is the second high profile vehicle to be resurrected by an American auto manufacturer this year. In July, Ford announced the return of its Bronco brand after a 25-year hiatus.
The debut price of the Hummer EV is $112,595 but by 2024, that’s expected to fall to $79,995. The brand also plans to launch an all-electric Cadillac SUV called the Lyriq in 2023.