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Bob Lutz to Oversee Opel

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[source: Wall Street Journal]

GM's Lutz to Oversee Opel

To be Installed as Head of Opel GmbH Supervisory Board


NOVEMBER 6, 2009, 12:44 P.M. ET


General Motors Co.'s marketing chief, Robert A. Lutz, will be installed to head the Opel GmbH supervisory board as the auto maker looks to implement a new restructuring plan and find a new leader for the European after its board of directors decided earlier this week to retain control of it, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Mr. Lutz's role isn't expected to be a direct management post as much as it is an oversight role. The supervisory board's next meeting is slated for the middle of November.

Several top GM executives are slated to travel to Germany Sunday to begin fine-tuning a restructuring plan for Opel. After the plan is firm, the company will present it to several European governments in hopes of winning financial support for the restructuring.

Mr. Lutz likely will hold the role atop the Opel supervisory board at least until a new chief executive for Opel is found. The current head of GM's European operations, Carl-Peter Forster, plans to leave the company after the U.S. car maker's surprise decision to abandon the sale of its Opel unit, a person close to the company said.

GM is in the process of paying off the €900 million balance of a €1.5 billion bridge loan it received from the German government this year. Once the loan is paid off, GM will be able to dissolve a trust board that was installed by Germany as the custodian of a 65% stake in Opel.

Earlier in the week, GM's board ditched a plan to sell 55% of Opel to Magna International Inc. and Russian partner Sberbank The German government had demanded the sale of control of Opel as a condition for financing a bailout of the unit.

Mr. Lutz, 77 years old, has a long history in the auto industry on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including a stint running Ford Motor Co.'s European operation. Mr. Lutz began a product overhaul at GM in 2001, and moved over to marketing following GM's exit from bankruptcy in July.

Mr. Forster's expected departure would be the first exit of a top-level manager after GM's sudden change of plans for Opel.

Mr. Forster, a former BMW executive lured to GM in 2001 to turn around Opel, was increasingly at odds with executives in Detroit as he became an unusually outspoken advocate for the sale of Opel to Canadian-Austrian auto supplier Magna.

GM may appoint Nick Reilly, head of the U.S. car maker's international operations, at least as an interim head, people close to the matter said.

GM Chief Executive Frederick "Fritz" Henderson said Thursday that the U.S. car maker would select a new management team for Opel within "weeks or days."

He and Mr. Reilly are expected in Germany early next week for talks with Opel managers as part of GM's plans to restructure the money-losing European car maker.

GM is also under pressure to mend fences with German lawmakers and labor leaders after backing out of the Magna sale after months of wrangling with unions and the German government.

A person close to the company said GM and Mr. Forster are still negotiating his departure but that is likely to be of mutual understanding.

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i am beginning to wonder if the white house had a hand in the reversal of the sale to anything dealing with russia.

I doubt it. The US Administration seems to be doing everything, short of nuking itself, to make Russia happy like abandoning Eastern Europe, and the missile-defence system in Poland.

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i am beginning to wonder if the white house had a hand in the reversal of the sale to anything dealing with russia.

I'm starting to think GM had no intention of ever following through on the sale.

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Das ist TICK-TOCK! :AH-HA_wink:

So is this away to get rid of Lutz and Opel or what?

Will he still work in marketing for GM or will he just do the Opel thing?

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GM Czar Lutz Heading Back To Europe--To Opel?

By Nelson Ireson


November 6th, 2009

GM's sudden decision this week to reverse path and keep Opel rather than sell a majority stake to Magna and Sberbank raised a lot of eyebrows, and even some tempers, around the world. Today, a report from Germany is saying car czar Bob Lutz is to be the next Chairman of Opel's supervisory board, following today's announcement of the departure of current Chairman and president of GM Europe, Carl-Peter Forster.

It wouldn't be the first time Lutz was sent to Europe on car business, as he kicked off his automotive career as part of the GM Europe team from 1963 to 1971. He also held the post of executive vice president of sales at BMW from 1971 to 1974. In the early 1980s, Lutz was Chairman of Ford of Europe and executive vice president of Ford's international operations.

On the other hand, he is also a part of the machine that saw Detroit in general and GM in particular drive itself straight off a cliff over the last several decades. So some in Europe are understandably cross about the idea of Lutz's leadership of Opel.

Lutz won't be taking Forster's position as head of GM Europe, however. That job will be reserved for Nick Reilly. There's no word yet on how Lutz's redirection to Opel will affect his role in GM's current marketing re-imagination campaign. The move could ease the already-planned import of the Opel Insignia as the next-gen Buick Regal.

[spiegel Online via TTAC]

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This whole thing smacked of a farce from the get-go. If GM had jettisoned Opel, it would have kissed good bye the European market, which would nuke any plans of it remaining in the #2 position of world sales - let alone dethroning :puke: Toyota.

It's not like Fritz picked up the phone last night and said, "Bob, get packin', you're moving to Germany." This thing has been in the works for weeks, if not months. I have to hand it to GM, though - this has been one masterful stroke of genius. It's about time it start getting crafty.

It's going to take a lot of guile to win over the jaded American public.

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Wow things are changing fast. Lutz's knowledge of German and French will no doubt help him here, but will he still have any involvement in North America?

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