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Opel CEO quits

Opel and out: Karl-Friedrich Stracke (pictured) leaves his post as Opel CEO to take on “special assignments” reporting directly to GM chief Dan Akerson.

Karl-Friedrich Stracke steps down just months after being elected as head of Opel

Opel logo13 Jul 2012

By HAITHAM RAZAGUI

OPEL CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke has stepped down, a matter of months after being elected as head of the loss-making company that has cost parent General Motors $US14 billion over the past 12 years.

GM vice-chairman and chairman of the Opel supervisory board Steve Girsky will step in as acting head of GM Europe while a replacement for Mr Stracke is found.

Announcing the changes, Opel said Mr Stracke stepped down to take on “special assignments” reporting directly to GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson.

Opel’s supervisory board will soon meet to appoint an interim chairman.

GM last month signed off a plan to turn Opel’s losses around, including reductions to the cost of building cars, an expansion of alliances beyond GM’s recent tie-up with PSA Peugeot Citroen and potentially running factories closer to capacity by building Chevrolets.

Part of the plan was to reduce from three to two the number of factories producing the Astra small car, starting with the next-generation model that will launch in 2015, with the British Ellesmere Port facility and Polish Gliwice factory announced in May as the chosen locations.

Despite opening up to export markets like Australia, these are unlikely to provide the volume boost Opel needs to drag itself out of trouble, so its focus remains on the ailing European market.

The depth of the European problems have been illustrated by PSA Peugeot Citroen’s decision this week to stop production at its Aulnay factory in Paris, with the loss of 3000 jobs in 2014, and to cut 1400 jobs at its Rennes production facility in northern France.

In a statement, Mr Akerson said GM “appreciated Karl’s many contributions to GM’s success” and that Mr Stracke “worked tirelessly, under great pressure, to stabilise this business”.

Mr Stracke joined Opel in 1979 and became GM vice-president for global vehicle engineering in 2009, overseeing development of the Opel Ampera range-extender EV.

He said he leaves his position “knowing that Opel/Vauxhall has a bright future” and is “looking forward to taking on new challenges for GM and Dan Akerson”.

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