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New boss for Opel

Tough gig: Former VW executive Karl-Thomas Neumann has been appointed chairman of Opel.

Former Volkswagen executive given the job of turning around Opel

Opel logo1 Feb 2013

AN ELECTRICAL engineer who once worked on car electronics for Motorola before rising up through the ranks of Volkswagen has been tasked with turning around General Motors’ ailing European arm, Opel.

Karl-Thomas Neumann has been appointed chairman of Adam Opel AG, joining the company from March 1 after being released early from his VW contract by his current employer.

Mr Neumann, 51, will replace Stephen Girsky – head of the Opel supervisory board – who was installed as acting company president after former Opel boss Karl-Friedrich Stracke was removed in July amid a sea of red ink.

The new boss will have the responsibility of stopping the slide of Opel and Vauxhall vehicle sales – down 16 per cent last year – and returning Opel to break-even by 2015 after losses amounting to more than $14 billion over the past 12 years.

Announcing the appointment, GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson made no bones about the importance of the job facing Mr Neumann.

“Opel/Vauxhall is a key to General Motors’ global success,” Mr Akerson said.

“This move will ensure that we have the best possible leadership in place as we continue driving toward profitability and growth in Europe.”

Mr Neumann was quoted as saying: “I am excited to lead a company with such a rich German heritage and strong product portfolio.

“I'm aware that this will be a challenging job, but I'm convinced that together with my leadership team and employees, we will turn around the company."Mr Girsky, who has had the unenviable job of bailing out the Opel boat for the past eight months, said Mr Neumann had proven track record in both growing business in a profitable way while also turning around businesses.

“He will add significant strength to the management board and will be instrumental in leading the company on a turnaround path that will be counted among Europe's most successful,” he said.

Mr Neuman recently was CEO and vice president of Volkswagen Group China, working in Beijing from September 2010 to August 2012.

He studied electrical engineering at the University of Dortmund and University of Duisburg, before working at the Fraunhofer Society as a research engineer and Motorola Semiconductor an engineer and director of strategy for the automotive industry.

He joined VW in 1999 as head of group research and director of electronic strategy.

In 2004, Mr Neumann joined German tyre supplier Continental’s automotive systems division, and was appointed chairman of Continental in 2008.

In December 2009, Mr Neumann returned to Volkswagen Group as chief officer for electric traction before taking up his China role.

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