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GM China’s Aussie chief Wale to retire
Former Holden director Kevin Wale to step down as GM China president
13 Sep 2012
By TERRY MARTIN
UPDATED: 17/09/2012A KEY architect of General Motors’ massive growth in China, expatriate Australian Kevin Wale, has announced he will retire on October 31.
GM’s president and chief country operations officer for China, India and the ASEAN region, Mr Wale, 57, began his career with Holden in 1975 and rose through the ranks at General Motors to become one of the US auto giant’s top executives.
GM and its joint-venture partners sold 2.5 million vehicles in China last year, where total vehicle sales topped a record 18 million for the year – the world’s biggest.
This year, GM and its partners – which include Shanghai GM, SAIC-GM-Wuling and FAW-GM – have achieved an 11.2 per cent sales increase with more than 1.8 million vehicles sold to August 31.
August alone was another record month in which GM China Group sales of 221,000 units marked an increase of 7.3 per cent over the corresponding month last year.
Mr Wale, a Melbourne native, will be returning to Australia and told GoAuto that he would now “learn to relax” after almost four decades in the business.
He also said it was too early to say whether he would remain involved in either the Australian or global automotive industry, or would be available to Holden as a consultant or in some other capacity.
Left: Kevin Wale.
“Thirty-seven years is a long time in our business so (it's) time to slow down a little,” he said.
“No real plans for the future, so will just see what happens. Whatever it is it will be a lot less time intensive.”
International Operations president and global manufacturing vice-president Tim Lee said Mr Wale had been “instrumental in strengthening our foundation in the largest vehicle market in the world”.
“Delivering exceptional value related to General Motors’ presence in China, he has made the company a recognised business leader and valued partner throughout Asia,” he said.
“We appreciate Kevin’s nearly four decades of service to the company and wish him continued success.”
Mr Wale will be replaced by GM global purchasing and supply chain vice-president Bob Socia, who will report to Mr Lee and remain a member of GM’s executive operations committee.
Mr Socia will be responsible for driving even more growth for GM in China, with the company setting out a five-year strategy last year to double annual sales to five million by 2016 with the introduction of more than 60 new or upgraded models.
At Holden, Mr Wale started in the finance department in the mid-1970s and had a two-year stint from 1983-85 in GM’s Financial Staff division in New York. Upon returning to Australia, he took up the position of Holden finance and strategic planning director, and in 1993 became sales, marketing and aftersales director.
He moved to Singapore in 1998 to take charge of GM’s Asia Pacific operations, and in 2001 was relocated to the UK to steer GM’s European operations as vice-president of GM Europe and president and chairman and managing director of Vauxhall Motors. He also served as a member of the GM Europe Strategy Board.
In 2005, Mr Wale became GM China Group president and managing director, which made him responsible for “the overall co-ordination of GM’s extensive operations in Greater China”.
Under him, GM’s annual sales in China grew from 560,000 units in 2005 to last year’s record 2.5 million, which marked seven consecutive years as the leading company among global OEMs.
Its 2.35 million sales in 2010 heralded the rise of China as GM’s biggest single market, outstripping the US for the first time.
Along the way, Mr Wale picked up the Shanghai government’s Magnolia Award in 2009, which is considered the highest honour for members of the foreign community in Shanghai.
Mr Socia has also worked for GM since 1975, starting in the Cadillac division in Detroit and working in both the finance and materials management areas.
He, too, has held senior international positions in GM Asia Pacific and GM Europe, as well as Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. He is a former president and managing director of GM South Africa and served as executive vice-president of Shanghai GM from 2007 to 2009, when he took over as GM’s head of global purchasing and supply chain.
“Bob has extensive experience leading global operations and global purchasing, and working directly with our joint-venture partners,” said Mr Lee.
“His vast knowledge of our business around the world, combined with his ability to build and foster strong relationships and always put the customer first, makes him a perfect fit for this critical role.”
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