Why loss of marketing exec stings at Opel
Opel faces a tough task replacing its award-winning marketing chief, Tina Mueller, who is joining German cosmetics retailer Douglas as CEO on Nov. 1.
Mueller's departure comes soon after former CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann quit Opel following General Motors' decision to sell the German automaker to PSA Group.
The loss of Opel's "dream team" is a severe blow for three reasons.
1. Mueller was a bright spot in Opel's management, having revived what was perceived to be a bankrupt brand in Germany. She won marketing's most-coveted prize in Germany for her Opel image campaign called Umparken im Kopf (Change Your Mind). Neumann and Mueller were named Man and Woman of the Year 2015 by German marketing magazine Horizont in the marketing category. Last year, Mueller was one of Automotive News Europe's 25 Leading Women in the industry.
2. Her continued presence also served as a stamp of legitimacy, guaranteeing Opel would continue to have a strong German management team. German unions fear domestic factories may end up drawing the short straw vs. French plants when it comes to production allocation.
3. Her role was fundamental for the company going forward. Mueller's chief task would have been to give Opel a distinct profile that differentiates it from Peugeot or Citroen, despite parts-sharing.
While departures are natural following a change of ownership, losing key personnel is hazardous, especially given Opel's recent history of management upheaval, Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst said.
Opel has had a string of executives come and go. New CEO Michael Lohscheller is Opel's sixth in 10 years.
"That was my biggest worry concerning this merger from day one," Ellinghorst said. "Under Neumann and Mueller, its image was just about fixed, and now you open yourself up to be a turntable for management. That is killing identity, killing the brand, and it has an impact, which we've seen with Opel for the last 20 years."