RESTON, VA: Bentley Motors has elevated Jeff Kuhlman to the role of chief communications and marketing director of the Americas, combining the previously separate functions.
Prior to the change, Kuhlman only handled comms duties for the luxury carmaker. However, after James Pillar, the previous head of marketing for Bentley in the Americas, moved back to the U.K. at the end of June, the company combined the two disciplines.
According to a spokeswoman, Pillar moved to the U.K. at the end of June to head the Bentley Network, an app-based platform for Bentley customers. Kuhlman started in the new position immediately afterward, heading a combined team of 12 people.
He reports to Mark Del Rosso, president and CEO of Bentley USA, and U.K.-based Andrew Roberts, global director of communications. Bentley has been owned by Volkswagen since 1998.
Kuhlman said he always felt communications and marketing should work closely together and has made combining the roles a priority in past jobs, including his time as head of comms at GM’s Cadillac brand.
"By the time I left, all the key people on the marketing side were reporting to me," Kuhlman said. "And we were regularly working with marketing colleagues on trying to achieve the same goals."
Kuhlman said the primary goal in his new role will be building one-on-one relationships with Bentley’s customers.
"I’m focused on building relationships with our customers such that they each know someone at Bentley and feel comfortable working with us as a partner," he added.
Given the brand’s customer base, individual marketing is not only possible, but actually necessary, he said.
"When I came up at General Motors, I was around CMOs who were rock stars and had rockstar budgets," Kuhlman said. "They were doing TV commercials and had huge ad buys. That’s not what we do on luxury side. We’re not going to find our customers on TV or even largely on print. We’re going to find our customers by being with them at events."
Kuhlman joined Bentley in 2015. Prior to that, he was VP of communications at Nissan Motor Company. Before that, he was CCO of Audi of America for five years, from 2006 to 2011. His first and longest tenure in the auto industry was at GM, where he worked in various roles for 22 years from 1984 until 2006.