GM Plugs Girsky Into Europe Lead, Reassigns Stracke

“It makes no sense at all,” says one analyst of the move to replace Karl-Friedrich Stracke just two weeks after approving a turnaround plan for Opel.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

July 12, 2012

2 Min Read
GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky named interim head of European operations
GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky named interim head of European operations.

General Motors shakes up leadership at its money-losing Adam Opel unit again today, reassigning the German auto maker’s management board chairman and GM Europe President Karl-Friedrich Stracke.

GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky steps in on an interim basis to lead GME.

GM says the Opel supervisory board will convene soon to find a replacement for Stracke on Opel’s management board, a potential signal of plans to once again split leadership duties in the region between GME and Opel.

Girsky already serves as chairman of the supervisory board of Opel, a position he added in November, when GM parachuted him and two other leading U.S.-based executives into the region to speed its turnaround.

GM product development chief Mary Barra and Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann joined Girsky in supporting roles on the board.

GM says in a statement today that Stracke will take on special assignments at GM, reporting to GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all,” says Tim Urquhart, an analyst with IHS Global Insight in London. “It is a poor situation, as GM tries to generate confidence among Opel’s workers, suppliers and customers. It sends a poor message around the world.”

Stracke assumed the lead at GME and Opel/Vauxhall earlier this year after Nick Reilly chose to retire. Stracke, a native German, went to Opel as CEO 15 months ago after working for many years in the engineering ranks at GM in the U.S.

Two weeks ago, Opel’s supervisory board approved a turnaround plan for the struggling unit, which since GM emerged from bankruptcy in the U.S. has lost $3.8 billion and helped drag down the Detroit auto maker’s stock price.

GM won a big concession from Germany’s strong labor union with an agreement to shutter an assembly plant in Bochum in 2016 as part of its new turnaround plan. In return, the auto maker is promising no layoffs at Opel until then. It also is pledging to run remaining plants in the country at capacity and invest in 23 new models and 13 new powertrains in coming years.

But the unit remains a weak link in GM’s remarkable turnaround from its 2009 bankruptcy.

Stracke’s departure swings the door open again at the top of GME. Reilly went there in 2010 from Asia to replace longtime GME and Opel/Vauxhall CEO Carl-Peter Forster, who now runs Indian auto maker Tata.

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