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GM Shakes Up Engineering in Wake of Recall Scandal

Maker hopes to catch potential safety problems earlier.

by on Apr.23, 2014

GM Product Chief Mark Reuss unveiling the Corvette Z06 during the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

General Motors continues to shake up its senior management ranks in the wake of the ongoing ignition switch recall scandal, this time ousting its global engineering chief and splitting the job into two new posts with a goal of catching potential safety problems earlier on.

The “retirement” of 55-year-old John Calabrese comes shortly after GM’s directors of Human Resources and Public Relations announced their departures amidst a crisis that could see the automaker face criminal charges levied by the Justice Department for the decade-long delay in ordering a recall of defective ignition switches linked to at least 13 deaths. GM has also been accused of delaying another recall while federal regulators have launched an investigation into braking problems involving the company’s new Chevrolet Impala sedan.

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“We feel that just an organizational change is not going to solve everything,” said Mark Reuss, the GM veteran who took over as global product development director late last year. “We have to have the right people with the organization, with the right leadership and with the right processes in place. … We know we can do it and we are going to do it.”


GM Readying Another Major Reorganization

Insiders brace but many hope for the best.

by on Aug.22, 2012

GM CEO Akerson tis expected to soon launch a major corporate reorganization.

General Motors appears to be heading towards a major reorganization, numerous sources indicate, one that Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson apparently hopes will shift the maker to a more global focus – and help it eliminate the sort of “fiefdoms” that have long stymied its efforts to become more efficient and competitive.

GM has been taking a number of baby steps towards this new vision in recent months, such as a realignment of its design operations meant to focus more on individual brands than specific global regions.  But the strategy has also suffered some unexpected setbacks, notably including the sudden ouster of worldwide marketing chief Joel Ewanick last month.

A reorganization could yield huge benefits if it results in a leaner and more efficient GM.  And CEO Akerson is clearly under pressure to improve things at a company that suffered a major drop in earnings during the second quarter – and which has seen its stock drop by as much as 40% since its November 2010 IPO.

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On the other hand, some observers caution that after years of turmoil, capped by the maker’s 2009 bankruptcy and subsequent federal bailout, GM’s leaders could trip the company into chaos if they’re not careful. The massive and largely dysfunctional 1984 reorganization is a clear example of what could go wrong.


More Shake-Ups as GM Reorganizes Global Manufacturing

Tim Lee to top spot, Diana Tremblay shifts to North America.

by on Jul.16, 2012

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Days after appointing a new chief for its troubled European operations, General Motors is shaking up its global manufacturing system.

The maker has named Tim Lee to head the vast empire of assembly and component plants stretching from Europe to Asia, Africa and the home market of North America.  That means Diana Tremblay, who had been in charge of global manufacturing, will now move to North America as vice president of manufacturing there. Whether that is a lateral move or a demotion appears to be a matter of debate.


Shake-Up at GM As Maker Prepares for Critical New Product Launches

“Playing offensive,” says NA Pres. Reuss.

by on May.18, 2012

GM shakes up its sales management ranks in advance of launching critical new products like the Cadillac XTS.

You might want to pick up a scorecard to keep up with all the changes as General Motors shuffles the key players in its sales operations.  The moves are timed to prepare for a host of critical new product launches coming over the next 18 months, including replacements for the makers aging full-sized pickups.

The realignment also suggests the maker wants to build up more momentum after a few months of lackluster sales.  While it has been gaining ground in the retail market overall GM sales fell behind the rest of the industry in March.

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GM North America president Mark Reuss said Alan Batey, 49, has been appointed to the newly created position of GM vice president, U.S. Sales and Service, reporting directly to Reuss. Other changes include:


Former GM CEO Bob Stempel Dead at 77

Ousted exec found life after GM.

by on May.10, 2011

Former GM CEO Bob Stempel, shown here in 2003 demonstrating a breakthrough by his new firm, ECD.

Bob Stempel’s good fortune came at an inopportune time.

Trained as an engineer and hailed as the “car guy” General Motors desperately needed when he was promoted to chairman and CEO, in 1990, Stempel’s tenure at the helm of what was then the world’s largest automaker lasted just two years before he fell victim to a boardroom coup.

But the amiable executive discovered there were plenty of opportunities after GM, and despite declining health continued to work in a variety of auto and technology-related ventures right until his death, over the weekend, at 77.

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Born in Trenton, NJ on July 15, 1933, Bob Stempel’s first love was engineering, and he received a bachelor’s degree in the field from Massachusett’s  Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  But he also recognized that engineers could only go so far in the automotive world, so Stempel landed a master’s degree in business from Michigan State University in 1970.

In 1958, three years after getting his mechanical engineering degree, Stempel landed a job as a senior detailer with GM’s Oldsmobile division.  Back then, the automaker’s various divisions operated as virtually autonomous fiefdoms, and Stempel remained with Opel for a number of years and through a variety of assignments.


GM Shake-Up: Liddell Out as CFO

Former Microsoft exec led GM through largest IPO in history.

by on Mar.10, 2011

Chris Liddell steps down as GM CFO.

This is an updated report on the original story posted by earlier this morning.

There’s another management shake-up at General Motors, this morning, with Chris Liddell stepping down as the Detroit maker’s chief financial officer.  He will be replaced by Dan Ammann, currently GM’s treasurer.

Liddell’s planned April 1 departure comes as something of a surprise – and for several reasons.  After a series of management shake-ups following its emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, in July 2009, GM’s senior ranks have been relatively stable in recent months, something insiders said was critical if the maker wanted to renew its focus on the business of designing, building and selling cars.

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But Liddell also was considered the key to General Motors’ wildly successful initial public offering.  The company initially expected to sell its new shares for as little as $26, but ultimately boosted the price to $33 – and sold a significantly larger large of the U.S. Treasury’s holdings than originally planned, ultimately raising about $23 billion in the process.

“Chris was instrumental in establishing a strong financial future for the company,” declared GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson during a Thursday morning news conference called to discuss the management shift.  Akerson described Liddell as “a catalyst for change” who “created a lower-risk profile” for the automaker after its emergence from bankruptcy.


OnStar Ousts Preuss; Among Other GM Changes

Perry named U.S marketing chief.

by on Jan.18, 2011

Former OnStar President Chris Preuss during a presentation at CES, in Las Vegas, earlier this month.

General Motors launched another round of executive changes, ousting the head of OnStar and placing a new executive in charge of marketing the company’s four “core” brands in North America.

Linda Marshall has been appointed president of OnStar, effective February 1, 2011.  Marshall succeeds J. Christopher Preuss, who has “elected to leave the company” to launch a communications consultancy practice, GM said Tuesday.

“As we continue to evolve the OnStar brand and bring new features to our customers, we believe Linda’s deep experience can take the brand and platform to the next level,” said Stephen J. Girsky, vice chairman, corporate strategy and business development.

The shake-up at the telecommunications subsidiary comes as OnStar begins a big push to expand its customer base – among other things by offering an aftermarket mirror, which it will sell through Best Buy, that owners of non-GM vehicles can use to subscribe to the service.  Preuss launched that new product and outlined other OnStar plans, earlier this month, at the Consumer Electronics Show, in Las Vegas.


GM’s Latest Shake-Up Nets Buick’s Richards, Chevy’s Dewar

by on Dec.10, 2009

Former Ford veteran Michael Richards lasted just 8 days as General Manager of GM's Buick division.

Former Ford veteran Michael Richards lasted just eight days in his post as General Manager of GM's troubled Buick division.

Even in the “new” General Motors, Michael Richards has set a record for short tenure, the Buick boss lasting just eight days before being resigned.

He will be followed out the door by long-time GM executive Brent Dewar, who was ousted this week as general manager of the automaker’s biggest brand, Chevrolet.

The latest management roil reflects the heavy hand of Chairman and Acting CEO Ed Whitacre, Jr., who has made it clear that performance is everything, and those who don’t deliver won’t be around very long.

Richards’ appointment as Buick General Manager was announced just before the division’s news conference during the Los Angeles Auto Show, on Wednesday, December 2nd.  He was something of a surprise appointment, coming to GM from cross-town rival Ford Motor Co. Insiders say Michaels, a 27-year Ford veteran, left, in 2008, after a falling out with that company’s marketing chief Jim Farley.

Apparently, Richards didn’t do much better building relations at General Motors.

“We’re just saying that he is leaving the company,” responded spokesman Tom Wilkinson.

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But a source, speaking on a request of anonymity, noted that Richards “timing wasn’t great.”

The executive was hired by former GM CEO Fritz Henderson, himself ousted last week, and Vice Chairman Bob Lutz.  Until last Friday, Lutz was serving as GM’s marketing chief, but he had that assignment – along with most of his other duties – stripped by Whitacre and given to fast-rising star Susan Docherty, who was overseeing GM’s North American sales operations.  Previously, the Canadian-born Docherty was in charge of the Buick-Pontiac-GMC group.


Q&A General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre

Yes, yes and no. Taciturn Whitacre keeps it short and sweet.

by on Dec.08, 2009

GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, Jr. keeps things short and simple during his first meeting with the media.

GM Chairman Ed Whitacre, Jr. keeps things short and simple during his first media meeting.

Though he insists he likes cars, Ed Whitacre, Jr. is not your classic “car guy,” which to some is a good thing.  Trained as a telecommunications engineer, the 68-year-old Texan rose to the top at SBC, one of the smaller “Baby Bells” spun off after the break-up of AT&T, eventually staging the highly unlikely takeover of SBC’s one-time parent.

Equally unlikely was the call Whitaker got from the White House task force.  A one-time top fundraiser for former President George W. Bush, Whitaker was named head of the newly-reconstituted Board of Directors following General Motors’ July 10 re-emergence from bankruptcy.

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Whitaker has little patience for those who don’t deliver, according to those who know him, something he demonstrated, a week ago, when he led the ouster of GM’s popular CEO Fritz Henderson.  For the time being, at least, Whitaker is serving as Acting CEO while a search begins for Henderson’s replacement.

In his first interaction with the media since the GM shake-up, Whitaker today held a brief, 38-minute webchat with journalists, a digital conversation that underscored his way of keeping things short and simple – if not always providing the necessary details or allowing follow up queries for clarification.  Here’s a transcript of the conversation:


Tim Lee Named Head of GM International

Another step in maker’s management shake-up.

by on Dec.04, 2009

GM is sending Tim Lee off to Shanghai, where he'll head the automaker's expanding International Operations.

GM is sending Tim Lee to Shanghai, where he'll head the automaker's expanding International Operations.

Tim Lee, who has been serving as the automaker’s vice president of global manufacturing and sales, will become GM’s new head of international operations.

The appointment was in tandem with  Nick Reilly’s move from GM International headquarters, in Shanghai, to Germany, where he will serve as head of both the troubled Opel subsidiary and General Motors Europe.

“I look forward to the challenge of building GM’s business in the world’s key emerging markets as well as many important mature markets. I also look forward to ongoing successful collaboration with our partners,” Lee said.

The China operation is rapidly becoming one of GM’s most important, reflecting not just the automaker’s success in the market but the overall surge in demand among increasingly affluent Chinese motorists.  Sales in the market soared to 12 million from January through November and are expected to top 13 million for all of 2009.

The strong position of the Buick brand is considered a primary reason why GM decided to maintain the long-troubled marque, in the U.S., while dropping four other brands as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.