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by Tim Beissmann

The president of General Motors Europe and CEO of Opel and Vauxhall has stepped down from his position to focus on “special assignments” within the company.

Karl-Friedrich Stracke, 56, has been replaced by GM vice chairman Steve Girsky, currently chairman of the Opel supervisory board, who will serve as acting head of GM’s European operations while the company searches for a replacement.

Stracke was in the head role of the embattled European division for just over six months, during which time he developed a 10-point plan to put Opel/Vauxhall on the path towards profitability.

GM’s European operations have lost US$16.4 billion ($16.2 billion) since 1999. According to analysts quoted by US industry journal Automotive News, the restructuring is a reflection of the car maker’s growing impatience with the money-losing division.

In his new role, Stracke will report directly to GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson – the man who took GM’s international operations to a record profit last year and helped reclaim its position as the world’s largest automotive manufacturer by sales.

Stracke’s successor will become Opel/Vauxhall’s fourth CEO in less than three years, after Hans Demant departed in November 2009 and Nick Reilly filled the role until April 2011.

Stracke’s 10-point plan covered wide-ranging areas of the business, including introducing new fuel-efficient engines and all-new models, streamlining production processes, expanding the company’s export program, and securing new partnerships and deepening existing ones to reduce research, development and production costs.

Analysts suggest significant savings will be difficult to achieve before 2016, however, at which time GM is expected to close its Bochum factory in Germany.




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