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Forster quits as GM begins new Opel era

Stepping in: GM's Nick Reilly, who once had Holden in his GM Asia-Pacific portfolio, has been given the task of seeing Opel through its return to the GM fold.

GM Europe president steps down, with Lutz and Reilly tipped to oversee Opel/Vauxhall

9 Nov 2009

GENERAL Motors is now searching for an executive to lead its European operations Opel and Vauxhall – two brands it last week decided not to sell to a consortium led by car parts giant Magna International – after Opel Europe president and GM group vice-president Carl-Peter Forster tendered his resignation.

Reports out of the US this week suggest GM’s international operations president Nick Reilly will temporarily replace Mr Forster.

Mr Reilly is a former plant director at Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant in England and one-time president of GM Asia-Pacific – a portfolio that included Holden. He oversaw the re-organisation of Korean car-maker GM Daewoo after the GM take-over in 2002.

He now effectively manages GM’s entire operations outside North America.

In a statement, GM said Mr Forster – who was in favour of the Magna deal – would remain an adviser during the transition to find a new chief executive. Other unconfirmed reports indicate that Bob Lutz will become chairman of Opel’s supervisory board (of which he is already a member) and play a crucial role in a restructuring plan that will soon be announced.

Thousands of jobs are expected to be cut.

 center imageLeft: Opel Europe president Carl-Peter Forster. Below: GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson.

As GoAuto has reported, GM revealed last week that it had decided, after months of negotiations, to abandon plans to sell 55 per cent of its European operations to Magna and partner Sberbank.

With Mr Forster’s departure, GM said it will initiate “an immediate external search” for a replacement and that it will “work with Opel leadership, in consultation with representatives of the European Employees Forum, in moving forward with a plan that will build a strong and enduring future for the Opel/Vauxhall brands”.

“The Opel brand has made tremendous progress under Carl-Peter’s tenure and leadership over the past several years,” said GM president and CEO Fritz Henderson. “We thank him for his significant accomplishments and wish him only the best in the future.

“In the meantime, we’re confident that the key personnel leading Opel will stay focused on running the business during this time of transition.”

Mr Henderson said GM expected to finalise its proposals for establishing Opel/Vauxhall’s future this week and “will be engaging all stakeholders to see how we can best work together in achieving our mutual goals”.

“We will update on our progress as soon as is possible,” he said, adding that no other management changes to the Opel Europe organisation were being considered “at this time” and that all key management roles will remain as the search for a replacement commences.

For his part, Mr Forster said: “The past few years building the Opel brand has been a tremendous personal opportunity. We’ve seen great strides in design, quality and technology and the launch of truly world-class products.

“It’s been an honour to be part of the history of Opel, and I wish all the people with the organisation only the best in what I’m certain will be a great future.”

In an informal discussion with journalists last week before Mr Forster’s resignation announcement, Mr Henderson refused to be drawn on the number of jobs that GM will now cut in Europe and the extent to which it will downsize its Opel/Vauxhall operations.

“In terms of the number of people, basically we’re going to go through this with our people first before we go into it with you,” he said. “All of the plans, again, whether it was ours or whether it was Magna’s, called for a substantial reduction in capacity in the business and the need to right-size the workforce.

“I just don't think it’s fair, and not something that I should do this morning, to go into what is the number and where. It’s really something we should do with our people first.”

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