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GM CEO Whitacre Takes Over Product Planning

Engineering loses power and is forced to look outside.

by on Jun.04, 2010

"My motivation for doing this has not changed."

"We needed more input from marketing and the different regions in the planning mix."

General Motors has re-shuffled key executives once again this week as it moved responsibility for global product planning from under vice chairman Tom Stephens and into the office of GM Chairman Ed Whitacre.

The change came as GM also announced it was setting up its own venture capital fund to invest in companies that could potentially bring new technology into the automotive market.

“We are constantly looking for ways to deliver the best technology for our customers,” said Stephen J. Girsky, vice chairman and vice president Corporate Strategy and New Business Development.

“Our goal is to nurture these innovative technologies to help bring them to market, and to ensure our customers have access to the best technology available,” said Girsky, a former Wall Street financial executive. The fund will be headed by Jon Lauckner, who has been serving as vice president of global product planning, reporting to Stephens.

Lauckner’s replacement as vice president of global product planning will now report to Whitacre and will work more closely with GM’s 12-member executive committee.

“The idea was we needed more input from marketing and the different regions in the planning mix,” said one GM official.

“It will elevate the role of planning and make it more visible in the company,” said another GM official.

GM also confirmed it was shifting Dan Hancock, now in charge of GM’s powertrain engineering, to a newly created position of vice president for global alliances and joint ventures. “We have a lot of talent in the company and we’re trying to get some fresh eyes on the things,” according to one official familiar with the shift.

The appointments of Lauckner, Hancock and Carlisle, however, indicated Whitacre wants to force GM’s still potent engineering community to open up to more outside influences.

Carlisle’s appointment, however, brought additional changes to GM North American sales organization, which has been led by a succession of executives in the past year. Don Johnson, who will return to the U.S. from an assignment with GM’s international operations, GM spokeswoman Sherrie Childers Arb said.

Jamie Hresko will become vice president of global powertrain engineering operations, replacing Hancock and Hresko’s current job of vice president of global quality will go to Dan Nicholson, who is presently in charge of integration of electronics and software on GM vehicles.