Opel chief steps down13/07/2012 - 09:11:53
The chief executive of loss-making carmaker Opel has abruptly stepped down, a sign that top management at parent General Motors want to speed up what has been a slow-moving restructuring plan.
Karl-Friedrich Stracke stepped down just two weeks after presenting a new plan to rebuild the struggling European Opel and Vauxhall brands and return them to profitability.
Adam Opel GmbH said in a statement that he will stay with GM and take on special projects, reporting to chief executive Dan Akerson.
GM Vice-Chairman Steve Girsky, the head of Opel’s board of directors and a company troubleshooter, will serve as acting chief of European operations while the company searches for Stracke’s replacement.
The surprise moves show that GM’s upper management is growing more impatient with the slow pace of change in Europe as the economy deteriorates faster than expected, said Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS Automotive, a consulting firm near Detroit.
Opel and Vauxhall have been a drag on the company’s earnings for years, including a $256m loss in the first quarter and $747m last year.
Stockholders and analysts have questioned whether GM is moving fast enough to stem the losses and restructure in Europe, where GM has too many factories and workers for the number of cars it sells.
The faltering European macro economy has created a situation where plant closings and other restructuring moves may now be more palatable to unions and governments as auto companies struggle, said Mr Robinet.
“That sense of urgency needs to be conveyed to labour that this is not just something we’re going to talk about every couple of months. This is job one,” he said.
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