Former GM Chairman Roger Smith Dies

It was during his tenure that GM forged a joint venture with Toyota to manufacture cars in California.

Former General Motors Corp. Chairman and CEO Roger B. Smith died Nov. 29 after a brief illness. He was 82.

Smith led the world’s largest auto maker from 1981 until his retirement in 1990. During his tenure, Smith directed GM through a time of expanding global business, stricter environmental and safety standards and increased competition from import brands.

It also was under his leadership that GM forged New United Motor Mfg. Inc., a joint venture with Toyota Motor Corp. to manufacture cars in California.

Additionally, the auto maker’s Saturn division was formed.

Smith was recognized for promoting free trade in several countries in which GM conducts business, including Austria, Belgium and Spain.

GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner says Smith “led GM during a period of tremendous innovation in the industry. He was a leader who knew that we have to accept change, understand change, and learn to make it work for us. Roger was truly a pioneer in the fast-moving global industry that we now take for granted.”

Smith gained notoriety in 1989 due to the release of filmmaker Michael Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me,” which focused on GM’s massive downsizing in Flint, MI, leaving the city in financial hardship.

Asked in an interview with the Chicago Tribune how he would like to be remembered, Smith replied, “For taking risks.”

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