The Truth About Cars » Sedran The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sedran Bankruptcy Expert To Run Chevrolet Europe Thu, 27 Jun 2013 14:01:56 +0000

“To suffer”


With luck- and hapless Susan Docherty cleaning out her desk in Europe, GM needs someone else to lead Chevrolet in Europe. They found Thomas Sedran, who will take the helm at Chevrolet’s EU HQ in Zurich, Switzerland. Sedran will start in July, says Reuters,  while Docherty will be leaving GM in September.

Sedran needs no formal introduction here at TTAC. He infamously served as the interim-interim CEO of GM’s Opel, a job he received  last July, when he replaced interim CEO Stephen Girsky, who replaced the comparatively longer-serving CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke.

While battlefield-promoted Sedran was manning the ramparts in Rüsselsheim, GM could look for a real CEO of Opel. He was found in the former Volkswagen exec Karl-Thomas Neumann.

Sedran currently holds the strategy portfolio in Opel’s board. “Strategy” slots are – at least among European automakers – often either parking positions, or camouflage titles for other work.

We shall leave an overview of Chevy’s situation in Europe to the much cooler heads at Reuters, who wrote:

“Chevy, which imports cars to Europe almost exclusively from GM’s South Korean unit, has lost ground to low-cost rivals Hyundai Motor Co  and Kia Motors Corp.

While Chevrolet’s market share in Europe dropped to 1.1 percent during the first five months of this year from the average 1.3 percent when Docherty took over at the start of 2012, Korean budget brands Hyundai and Kia grew theirs by roughly half a percentage point each, to 3.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Cadillac sold fewer than 500 cars in western and central Europe last year out of the roughly 196,000 Cadillacs sold worldwide.”

As head of Chevrolet Europe, Sedran takes charge of a suicide mission. The EU market is in disarray, old brands fight for survival, new brands are in daily peril of being trampled. What’s more, Sedran has – except for his short-lived stand-in stint – no experience in running a brand, or a carmaker. His expertise lies in selling off the bones and usable organs of dead companies. Sedran came to GM and Opel as an Alix Partner consultant. Alix says they are the industry benchmark when it comes to putting a dollar amount on “a distressed or bankrupt company or its assets.”

“It’s like putting a funeral director in charge of an emergency room,” quipped an executive of  a European OEM, when I ran into him in an ill-reputed Berlin bar last night. “But who knows, maybe it’s really the New GM, and they are planning ahead.”

In related news, Opel found a new Marketing Director. It is Tina Müller, previously in charge of Henkel’s Beauty Care cosmetics division for Western Europe..  To ward off snarky comments: Henkel, and especially the beauty care division, are run with more military precision than West Point, and Frau Müller will soon miss it.

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GM’s Interim-Opel-Opera: Fringe Theater In Rüsselheim – FREE: Bonus Short Course In German Management Speak Sat, 26 Jan 2013 11:48:55 +0000

Industrial-strength theater

Yesterday evening, while yours truly was in seedy Tokyo bars, rubbing shoulders and more with paid informants, word reached us that Opel’s new sales chief Alfred Rieck allegedly threw-in the towel and left Opel in disgust, after only seven months of valiantly trying to move the damaged goods called Opel cars. After a few phone calls to Germany this morning, a different story emerged. Siehe unten.

The Villain from Germany and China: Alfred Rieck

“Rieck did not go,” said one of Rieck’s former colleagues at Volkswagen, “er wurde gegangen.” He has been gone, as the saying goes in Germany’s executive speak. Or as Automobilwoche [sub] puts it bluntly: “Rieck was fired.” Opel’s leaky supervisory board (the leaks usually spring on the union side) floated the story that Rieck had not been up to the difficult, not to say impossible task of turning around sales and market share at Opel. Which, after only seven months on the job, is a bit much to ask anyway.

Before Rieck foolishly embarked on the mission impossible at Opel, he had done quite well. As head of Skoda in Germany, he helped positioning the brand as the smart shopper’s choice. Sent to China, he successfully established the Czech brand in a market awash with brands. Before, the former Marketing Chief of Volkswagen had advanced to Senior Leader in charge of sales and marketing of luxury Volkswagen cars, a task that is nearly as challenging as selling Opels. If you can sell Phaetons, selling Adams should be a cinch. Rieck had been hired by former Opel chief Stracke when he was still in charge. Girsky and Sedran reportedly never warmed up to Rieck. As a man who knew what he was doing, Rieck was in the way at Opel.

The new knight from Germany and China: Karl-Thomas Neumann

The scuttlebutt from Germany also says that fired Opel sales chief Rieck and designated Opel CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann shared the same floor, but few opinions while both were at Volkswagen in China. It is said that Girksy and Sedran could dispose of Rieck while saying that they want to clean house for Neumann. In German management speak, the genre played on the rickety stages of Rüsselsheim is called “Meucheldrama,” a low budget killer epic. Some call it a “Schmierenkommödie” – fringe theater.

The stand-in’s stand-in: Thomas Sedran

In a play awash in fake blood and real losses, Sedran is a paid extra, a puppet played by Girksy and the people who pull Girsky’s strings. Stand-in CEO Sedran is of the species homo auxiliatus, he is a management consultant. Sedran worked for the Munich office of Alix Partners, the same consultancy that helped Girsky engineer the federally-managed bankruptcy of General Motors, and the subsequent take-over by an unholy alliance between the UAW and an Obama administration that owes its existence to the unions. Don’t forget: Girsky himself was a (very generously) paid UAW operative, who came to GM’s board as a representative of the union’s VEBA trust.

According to many reports, it was Girsky who opposed the sale of Opel to Magna and Russian interests, a deal that was to be lubricated with a generous helping of German tax money while GM had none.

Puppet-master on a string and stand-in pro tem: Steve Girsky

Assuming that Girsky had the backing of UAW and Washington, the other boardsitters nodded as usual. Alix Partners had developed an optimistic turn-around concept for Opel in 2008/2009, and the document became the ammunition that helped Girsky shoot down the sale of Opel at the last minute. Germany’s government, from stupidly snubbed Frau Merkel on down, turned into perennial enemies of Opel in a time when Opel could not afford more enemies. Sedran and his Alix Partners employers were relieved. Opel going to Magna and Russia bankers would have meant an assured end of Alix Partners work for Opel. Opel is a management consultant’s dream, as long as the corpse is kept breathing, it will never stop needing restructuring advice. A sold Opel most likely would have caused terminal indigestion at Magna and the Russians, but hey, their problem. Unsold, Opel keeps draining the blood out of GM.

Of course, Opel’s turn-around concept was a dud, or a “Blindgänger” as they call it over there. Unexploded ordnance devices have the nasty characteristics of exploding at inopportune moments over many years, and it is the momentously failed Girsky/Sedran/Alix Partners turnaround of Opel that weighs down on GM’s bottom line, cash flow and stock valuation. Instead of turning around, Opel turned deeper in the morass of a collapsing European car market, to which Opel was and is shackled by its Detroit rulers. The sale to Magna would have been GM’s peace with honor, just like Ford elegantly and honorably untangled itself from the strangulation by Volvo, JLR, et al. Instead , Girsky, ammunitioned by Alix Partners and Girsky’s confidante Sedran, walked GM deeper and deeper into the German quagmire, making Rüsselsheim GM’s Vietnam.

The English extra: Duncan Aldred

It was no surprise to see Girsky dispatched to German shores, first as Chairman of Opel’s supervisory board, then as stand-in CEO, who drafted his water boy Sedran as interim-CEO after someone told him that according to German company law, it is less than smart to be both supervisory board chairman and supervised CEO in personal union. I can well imagine that RenCen executives, sick and tired and bruised from kicking themselves daily for having listened to Girsky’s stupid advice of holding on to terminally ill Opel, told Girsky: “You always knew how to whip those German clowns in shape. Go over there and do it.” Crowned as Emperor of GM’s Europe, Girsky was dispatched on a suicide mission. RenCen got rid of know-it-all Girsky, and had someone to blame. Brilliant.

In the German upper management vernacular, which Girsky hopefully is learning, such an act is called “wegloben”, literally “to praise away”, usually understood as “to kick upstairs” or as “transfer to Siberia” on a one-way ticket.

While in Germany, Girsky had nothing better to do than find the French patient as an ally: PSA, the company that managed to leverage the fact that it is Europe’s second largest automaker into debilitating losses. No wonder GM and PSA get along. We shall keep them as material for the next theater season. Holding a B.S. in Mathematics form UCLA, Girsky is convinced that minus times minus equals plus. (Just don’t add them, please.)

Consultant Sedran’s interimistic CEO gig likewise raised eyebrows, this time in the management consultant community. Changing sides, switching from consultant to manager is not the jump in one’s career as which it is often sold. In the consultancy business, your peers look down on you when you go to the Dark Side. It is usually the under-performing consultants that are disposed into the landfill of executives “at the client.” Once you have landed there, you are supposed to provide your former colleagues (who usually know interesting details of your prior life) with juicy contracts, while the grey beards at the company will not stop trying to trip the intruder, often right into their open knives. The act of giving juicy contracts to your old cronies at the management consultancy often serves as a handy trip-wire. Belatedly, you realize that the consultant’s job of recommending change is much easier – and often much better paid – than the manager’s nasty job of implementing change. Especially in the morass called Opel.

“Man muss schon ein grosses Arschloch sein,” to take a leading position at Opel these days, says my German informant with Saturday-morning bluntness. His assessment of the attraction of Opel jobs, and what assembly of assorted asstute assets they manage to draw, shall remain untranslated. All I can say is that in Germany, the announcement that one signs up as an executive at Opel usually elicits an “was hast du den angestellt?” What did you do to deserve such punishment.

PS: Rieck’s job has been filled, as it is the custom at Opel, on an interim basis. Vauxhall brand chief Duncan Aldred reports as interim sales chief of Opel to interim CEO Sedran until Neumann takes over in March. Girsky praised Duncan for having turned Vauxhall into “the fastest growing brand for retail customers in the United Kingdom.” European auto execs find this statement humorous. Due to UK tax regulations, your first new car in the island nation, and hopefully many more, is a company car as part of your salary package. More than half of the UK’s new car sales are “fleet” sales. According to data released by the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Vauxhall’s share of the UK market dropped to 11.36 percent in 2012, down from 12.09 percent in 2011. It’s all relative: In Germany, Opel’s market share dropped from 8 percent in 2011 to 6.9 percent in 2012, with Rieck on the job during six months of that year. Compared to that, Aldred’s loss looks like a gain. At least in the world of Opel.

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Opel Really Needs A New CEO. Badly Mon, 17 Dec 2012 17:10:56 +0000

Opel will remain a money draining leak in the mother ship for the foreseeable future. This is one conclusion after reading an interview given by Opel’s interim CEO Thomas Sedran to Germany’s Wirtschaftswoche. Another conclusion would be that Opel needs a chief.

Sedran is “sure that we will be profitable by mid-decade,” but this is an easy claim for any Opel CEO. Even non-interim chiefs of Opel have a very short shelf life. The plans revealed by the former management consultant (Roland Berger, Alix Partners) don’t sound like Opel will be profitable in this century.

Sedran says that all European manufacturers need to develop a business case where no money is made in Europe. That does not sound too promising for a Europe-centric Opel. When asked about exports, Sedran names Australia and North Africa as hot new markets. Uh-oh. All of Australia has the population of Shanghai, and North Africa currently has other problems.

Joint production with alliance partner PSA is not a topic for Opel, says Sedran. The two are negotiating, mind you negotiating joint development of four new model series. The model series are scheduled to be launched by 2016/2017.  Someone who has more experience in running a car company would have wanted to know long ago who will design a few new model series due four to five years from now.  One of the most important parts of the development of a new car is production engineering. Joint development with disjoint production does not promise quick savings.

Sedran does not just want Opel to become profitable in a few years, he also wants Opel to advance to Europe’s second largest brand. Sure, that’s a noble goal. Where does Opel stand these days? “As everybody knows, we are the third largest brand in Europe.” Really? Well, Herr Sedran, if you want to play the brand game, you need to play it right.

Opel/Vauxhall sold 764,000 units in Europe from January through November, which places it after Volkswagen and Ford and before Renault. But Opel/Vauxhall is not a brand.  It is two brands. 219,000 of the sales are under the Vauxhall brand, giving the Opel brand 545,000 units, which would place Opel in rank 8, and which would let the Vauxhall brand beat Dacia. Or should Vauxhall’s UK customers interpret Sedran that he wants to give up Vauxhall? We don’t think so.

Few people will care anyway. Soon, Sedran will join the swelling ranks of former Opel CEOs. According to German media, Opel has its eyes on Volkswagen’s former China chief Karl-Thomas Neumann. However, Neumann is still under contract at Volkswagen, and Wirtschaftswoche says that Volkswagen is ornery and does not want to give Neumann to Opel before his contract ends in summer of 2013.  Opel has other candidates and could choose one this month, says the magazine.


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Opel’s Interim Chief: GM Parts Are Way Too Expensive Fri, 05 Oct 2012 14:17:58 +0000

We’ve been told again and again that pooled parts purchasing produces profits. Baloney, Opel interim-chief Thomas Sedran will say in an interview that Germany’s Tagesspiegel will publish tomorrow. He says something GM customers have known for a while: Parts from GM’s bin often are too expensive, and by sourcing them elsewhere, one can save a lot of money. “We are talking a significant order of magnitude,” Sedran will say tomorrow.

According to Reuters, which received an early copy, Sedran will say:

“GM has global requirements for parts and components that are unusual in the industry. A starter is tested at 40 degrees below zero, just as would be needed in Alaska, otherwise it fails the test.”

Sedran hasn’t been Opel chief for long. With a little more experience, he would know that he is on the right track towards the rest of the story.

“The profit is in purchasing,” is an ancient rule in the business, and not all profits generated by Purchasing in Detroit are passed-on to Rüsselsheim. Internal parts sales are a favorite way to shift profits elsewhere. Maybe that’s what Sedran is trying to say. But I doubt it will further his career.

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Say Hi To Opel’s New CFO Wed, 18 Jul 2012 13:03:19 +0000

GM throws fresh troops in Opel’s losing battle. For keeping more money, Opel has a new CFO. For eventually making more money, the Rüsselsheim automaker has a new R&D chief.

Opel poached Michael Lohscheller  from Volkswagen of Anerica,  where he currently serves as Executive Vice President and CFO. Lohscheller administered the finances of a comnoanby that had a significant turn-around. Lohscheller succeeds Mark N. James , “whose professional future will be announced later.”

Michael Ableson will be Opel’s Engineering chief starting September, 1. Currently, he is in charge of compact cars at Opel. Ableson is Global Vehicle Line Executive for Compact Cars, based in Russelsheim, Germany. Michael Ableson in means Rita Forst out.

The promotions come a day after GM made Thomas Sedran the new interim CEO of Opel.

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Opel CEO Du Jour: Who’s Next? Tue, 17 Jul 2012 19:10:47 +0000

How would you feel if you start your new job and people greet you by speculating who will replace you? This is how Thomas Sedran must feel. Only hours after he has been made the new interim CEO of Opel, German media speculates who will be next in his ejection seat in Rüsselsheim. The roster of likely candidates is not encouraging.

The always well-informed Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (it had called Sedran’s promotion correctly) offers a shortlist of likely managers. All are past their use-by date.

  • One is Rainer Schmückle, the former Daimler Manager who was replaced by Wolfgang Bernhard in 2010. Schmückle has a reputation for alienating the works council. Two years ago, Schmückle already had refused the offered CEO job at Opel.
  • Another is the former Continental CEO Karl-Thomas Neumann. After leaving Conti, he was made head of Volkswagen’s China business.  He lost that job during a recent management reshuffle, and was shunted to running Skoda, Volkswagen’s spent fuel pond for formerly hot executives.
  • The last option offered by the FAZ is infamous Wendelin Wiedeking. Nuff said.

Reuters offers an unexpected candidate. A banker told Reuters that “the head of the European car parts suppliers association CLEPA, Jean-Marc Gales, could be a strong external candidate to replace Stracke. The Luxembourg native speaks fluent French and German and knows both companies intimately, having worked as Opel sales chief and most recently as head of both the Peugeot and Citroen brands.”

In the meantime, a list of former Opel CEOs is making the rounds in Germany. It won’t make the talent scouting easier.


Die Opel-Chefs seit 1948 im Überblick:

- Edward W. Zdunek 01.11.1948 – 28.02.1961

- Nelson J. Stork 01.03.1961 – 01.03.1966

- L. Ralph Mason 01.03.1966 – 30.09.1970

- Alexander A. Cunningham 01.10.1970 – 31.01.1974

- John P. Mc Cormack 01.02.1974 – 29.02.1976

- James F. Waters, jr. 01.03.1976 – 31.08.1980

- Robert C. Stempel 01.09.1980 – 05.02.1982

- Ferdinand Beickler 05.02.1982 – 31.01.1986

- Dr. Horst W. Herke 01.02.1986 – 31.03.1989

- Louis R. Hughes 01.04.1989 – 03.07.1992

- David J. Herman 04.07.1992 – 18.06.1998

- Cary Cowger 19.06.1998 – 31.10.1998

- Robert W. Hendry 01.11.1998 – 31.03.2001

- Carl-Peter Forster 01.04.2001 – 31.03.2004

- Hans H. Demant 01.04.2004 – 15.01.2009

- David N. (Nick) Reilly 15.01.2009 – 08.04.2011

- Karl-Friedrich Stracke 11.04.2011 – 12.07.2012

- Steve Girsky 12.07.2012 – 17.07.2012

- Thomas Sedran 17.07.2012 – ???




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Opel Names Second Interim Chief In A Week. What’s His MTBF? Tue, 17 Jul 2012 15:01:46 +0000 Opel has a new CEO, the second in a week, and he will soon be out of a job: As expected by TTAC,  GM named Thomas Sedran as interim CEO of Opel, replacing the current interim CEO Stephen Girsky, who replaced the not quite interim CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke.

According to a GM release, the former management consultant Sedran “will act as chairman until a permanent chairman is in place.”  The temporary appointment also jibes with predictions made in German media over the weekend.

Sedran was not named president of GM Europe, a job Stracke also held. According to Reuters, “GM vice chairman Stephen Girsky was handed the title, bundling more control at GM’s headquarters in Detroit.”

Sedran could keep his job for a while though. Finding a competent external candidate for the job will be tough. The Opel chairman’s chair is regarded a “Schleudersessel” in Germany, an ejection seat with now Girsky’s trembling hand over the button.  Girsky was smart enough not to keep the job a minute longer than absolutely necessary.

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