Automotive News [sub] reports that the one-time advisor to Rick Wagoner and GM’s director in charge of the UAW’s VEBA account’s 17.5 percent stake in the automaker has been promoted to Vice Chairman in charge of corporate strategy and business development. He will be replacing John Smith, a 59 year-old GM “lifer” (he joined the company in 1968) who led negotiations for GM’s Saab-Spyker and Opel-Magna deals. Smith will stay on until the end of this year as an advisor to CFO Chris Liddell. That Smith would leave GM after the failed Opel sale and the less-than-entirely-satisfying Saab-Spyker deal isn’t surprising, and as a well-compensated advisor to CEO Ed Whitacre and a rising star at GM, Girsky is an equally unsurprising replacement (despite his failure to rescue Saturn). And though Girsky brings experience gained as a labor advisor and a Morgan Stanley analyst, he’s got his work cut out for him. GM’s brand sales have been largely unsuccessful so far, Opel is in an unfunded turnaround limbo, and a recent India-market alliance with SAIC was less than perfect for GM’s long-term prospects. Girsky’s got a lot going for him compared to the typical GM insider, but with mounting long-term, structural issues facing The General, there aren’t any easy options facing him in his new capacity.
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