At its regularly scheduled meeting in Rüsselsheim, Germany today, the Supervisory Board of Adam Opel AG elected Karl-Friedrich Stracke as the new head of the General Motors European subsidiary. As Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Stracke will be responsible for the worldwide business operations of the loss making Opel/Vauxhall. The 32-year veteran of GM has led global vehicle engineering for the last year and a half.
The affable 54-year-old engineer succeeds Nick Reilly, who retains his position as President of GM Europe. Nick Reilly as expected was today elected Chairman of Opel’s Supervisory Board, succeeding Walter Borst, President and CEO of GM Asset Management, who will remain a Supervisory Board member. GM Europe (GME) had a loss before interest and taxes of $0.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2010, a slight improvement from a loss of $0.8 billion in the same quarter a year ago.
Last year the German government – facing a taxpayer revolt and big deficits that foreshadowed the current budget turmoil in the United States – refused to provide €1.1 billion in subsidies that GM wanted for Opel, saying the company had enough cash to keep Opel running.
The cash, of course, came from U.S. taxpayers in 2009, who along with the United Auto Workers Union own the biggest stakes in GM, which now employs about 24,000 people in a reunited Germany – a Germany that refuses to support the U.S. in the ongoing Libyan war. The GM bankruptcy bailout by taxpayers remains politically unpopular in the U.S., and Opel continues to lose money in the depressed European market
A native of North Hesse in Germany, Karl-Friedrich Stracke joined Opel in 1979. Since 2009, he has been GM Vice President, Global Vehicle Engineering, responsible for product development and technology. During his tenure, engineers and technicians worldwide have developed what’s said by GM to be innovative vehicles and technologies, including the Opel Ampera hybrid vehicle, which is a clone of the Chevrolet Volt.
There is a large amount of friction between Opel and Chevrolet factions inside GM as both brands compete for the same customers. Chevrolet is increasingly turning to GM’s Korean subsidiary Daewoo as a source for small cars that Opel once designed exclusively. Opel’s future is clearly as a regional European brand in a market where it is struggling.
“Opel has laid the foundations for a successful future and I feel honored by the decision of the Supervisory Board,” said Stracke. “I am confident that together we will be able to bring forward many initiatives for the benefit of our customers.”
(See Opel Shuts German, Spanish plants for Japanese Parts Shortage; Management Shifts as Stracke Returns as Opel CEO and General Motors Posts 2010 Net of $4.7 B on $135.6 B of Income and European Car Sales Decline in January)