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GM Product Czar Mark Reuss Adds “President” to His List of Titles

Following in his father’s footsteps.

by on Jan.03, 2019

GM's Mark Reuss may be happiest behind the wheel of one of these, his impact will now reach beyond product development.

General Motors has a new president, global product czar Mark Reuss stepping in to fill a role left vacant late last year when former president Dan Ammann was reassigned to run GM’s autonomous vehicle development subsidiary, Cruise Automation.

The 55-year-old veteran, who trained as an automotive engineer, likes to say he has “gasoline in his blood.” He also has long ties to GM itself, his father Lloyd Reuss serving as the carmaker’s president during the turbulent era from 1990 to 1992.

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“Mark’s global operational experience, deep product knowledge and strong leadership will serve us well as we continue to strengthen our current business, take advantage of growth opportunities and further define the future of personal mobility,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Mark has played a critical role in leading the development of the company’s award-winning vehicles while transitioning his team to prepare for growing electrification and autonomous technologies.”

Reuss officially joined General Motors as a student intern back in 1983. Since then, he has worked his way through a variety of different roles, both on the business side and where he is more closely associated with his personal passion, product development. He spent several years running GM’s Australian unit, Holden, though that also meant he had to turn the key to shut down manufacturing operations “Down Under” earlier this decade.

(GM moves Ammann into CEO role at GM Cruise. Click Here for the story.)

GM's Mark Reuss celebrates the Chevrolet Bolt being named North American Car of the Year.

In 2001, Reuss was appointed head of the new GM performance division, giving him the opportunity oversee development of a variety of vehicles, including the Chevrolet Corvette, as well as the reborn Chevy Camaro.

It helped position him as a rising star at a time when GM’s own fate seemed in limbo, the automaker formally declaring bankruptcy in 2010. It ultimately emerged from a carefully managed Chapter 11 process with the help of billions of dollars in federal aid – and with an entirely new management team. Initially, that included several industry outsiders, starting with Ed Whitacre, a telecom veteran, as chairman and CEO.

But Reuss landed a plum support role as head of GM’s critical North American Operations. It was a period of massive transformation, as the automaker had abandoned half of its U.S. brands as part of the bailout process.

Whitacre was a GM short-timer, soon replaced by Dan Akerson. And by mid-decade, as that industry outsider also prepared to step down, Reuss landed on the short list of those seen as potential successors. In the end, the CEO job went to Mary Barra, another GM insider who started out as a co-op student working part-time at a GM factory.

Reuss got a major consolation prize, heading global product development – a job that frequently lets him shed his suit and tie for a helmet and fireproof racing suit. Last June, he was also named head of Cadillac and has been heavily involved in the development of a stream of new vehicles expected to roll out of the luxury brand every six months through 2021.

GM's Mark Reuss driving a Camaro ZL1 is an experienced racing driver.

Both Reuss and Barra have deep roots within GM. But the where the chairman’s father was a “shop rat,” working on the factory floor, Lloyd Reuss was a member of the GM elite. He had helped steer the automaker through a painful reorganization in 1982 and, in 1990, was rewarded with the company’s second-highest post, GM president. But it was a time of massive turmoil in the industry, Detroit’s automakers rapidly losing share to their import rivals. With General Motors teetering perilously close to insolvency, the elder Reuss was forced out unceremoniously in 1992.

(Click Here for more about GM revamping responsibilities for Ammann, Reuss.)

Today’s announcement serves as something of a vindication, Mark Reuss frequently crediting his father for his own success.

The post he steps into will be dramatically different from the one his father occupied. Indeed, the duties of GM’s president have changed markedly in just the last few months.

GM's Mark Reuss will now take on the job once held by his father, Lloyd Reuss, albeit the responsibilities are markedly different now.

Until November, the post was occupied by New Zealand-born Dan Ammann, a finance industry veteran who also joined GM post-bankruptcy. On Nov. 29, Ammann was reassigned to Cruise Automation, the San Francisco-based autonomous vehicle development company GM bought for $1 billion several years ago. He replaced founder Kyle Voigt as CEO and will focus on making the subsidiary a central part of GM’s future – Barra betting heavily on electrified and self-driving vehicles for the future.

When Ammann left, GM indicated it might not replace him as president, a number of key duties being reassigned. Barra took over responsibility both for managing the automaker’s global regions, as well as its “captive” finance subsidiary, GM Financial. CFO Dhivya Suryadevara, meanwhile, assumed control over GM’s corporate development operations.

They will retain those responsibilities, and Reuss will largely continue managing what is already on his plate. The key change will see him add oversight of GM’s quality control operations. That’s a major area for a company that, for decades, suffered under a reputation for delivering poor quality. In recent years, however, it has made rapid gains, particularly with its Buick and Chevrolet brands, according to studies by outside arbiters such as J.D. Power and Associates.

(To see more about Reuss’ impact on the evolution of GM in recent years, Click Here.)

“I am very proud to have spent my entire career at General Motors, and to now take on this new role is truly a great honor,” Reuss said in a statement Thursday.” With our current line-up of outstanding cars, trucks and crossovers around the world, I’m looking forward to keeping our momentum going at full speed.”

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