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Opel CEO Reilly adds German politician and former Ford exec to his new team

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Opel CEO Reilly adds German politician and former Ford exec to his new team

Paul McVeigh

Automotive News Europe -- January 29, 2010 06:01 CET

MUNICH -- Opel CEO Nick Reilly has added a German politician, Volker Hoff, and a former Ford Motor Co. communications executive, Susanne Wegerhoff, to his new management team.

Hoff's role as vice president of government affairs for Opel will be a key position as the General Motors Co. unit seeks 2.7 billion euros in loans or loan guarantees from European countries where Opel and British sister brand Vauxhall have factories including Germany, Spain and the UK. The aid will help fund a restructuring of the money-losing unit.

Hoff has been a member of parliament in the German state of Hesse since 1991. Opel's headquarters are in Hesse in Russelsheim, near Franfkurt. Between 2006 and 2009, he was a minister in the Hesse state government.

Hoff replaces Tayce Wakefield, a Canadian, who has elected to retire from GM after a 25-year career with the company in Canada, the United States and Europe.

“Volker Hoff is a high-profile political figurehead who has closely followed Opel from his positions in the Hesse government and parliament,” Reilly said in a statement.

Hoff said: “Becoming part of the leadership team that is moving Opel forward is like a boyhood dream come true.”

Hoff's predecessor, Wakefield, joined GM in 1984 in the company's government relations department and held progressively responsible positions.

Hoff's role is to help Opel win state aid.

She worked on legislative issues including pension reform, labor, safety and environmental issues, trade and tax legislation, as well as media relations, employee communications and charitable contributions.

In 2008, she was promoted to GM Europe's head of public policy and government relations and was based in Brussels leading a team of 20 people in various European countries, including the UK, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Poland and Russia working on environmental and energy issues, tax and trade policy, state aid, consumer and other policy issues impacting the auto industry.

Reilly says Wegerhoff's communications role 'crucial'

Reilly said Wegerhoff's extensive communications leadership experience "will be crucial as we're preparing Opel for growth.”

Wegerhoff will be responsible for all Opel corporate, product and brand communications activities in Europe.

She held communications leadership positions in Ford's offices in London and Cologne between 1995 and 2004 and started her career as a business reporter for the Associated Press news agency.

Wegerhoff became the head of corporate communications at German Rail Group in 2004 and led their investor relations and financial communications from 2006.

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