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Girsky Named General Motors Vice Chairman

Is Lutz being put out to pasture?

by on Feb.22, 2010

Will Stephen Girsky's promotion to Vice Chairman be followed by Bob Lutz's departure?

General Motors has named Stephen J. Girsky its new Vice Chairman of Corporate Strategy and Business Development, a move that coincides with yet another round of changes in the automaker’s corporate suite — and it is triggering debate – once again – over the future of GM’s long-time product chief, Bob Lutz, who turned 78 this month.

Girsky, a former Wall Street analyst has been serving a variety of rolls at GM since joining the company on July 10, 2009, as it emerged from bankruptcy.  He initially joined the automaker’s board of directors as the representative for the United Auto Workers Union, which took a major stake in GM as it emerged from Chapter 11.

But on December 1, following the ouster of former Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson, Girsky became a special adviser to Edward Whitacre, as he added CEO to his initial title of non-executive Chairman.

In recent months, Whitacre has acknowledged his heavy reliance on Girsky, a former Morgan Stanley analyst, to sort through some of the basics of the car business, which Whitacre, the former CEO of AT&T, admits he doesn’t fully understand.

“Steve brings a depth of experience to this position that will serve the company well as we continue with our restructuring efforts,” said Whitacre, following Girsky’s appointment to the Vice Chairman’s post. “He is a trusted adviser who has made a major contribution through the company’s transition. We look forward to benefiting from Steve’s counsel and insights as we move the company forward.”

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A frequent critic of GM during his years on Wall Street, Girsky has generated good marks from those who have worked with him, over the years, including Joe Phillippi, former auto analyst with Lehman Brothers and now head of the consulting firm, AutoTrends.

“He’s obviously got a lot of background in the auto industry,” said Phillippi.  “And Ed (Whitacre) feels he needs a good sounding board and an outside voice.”