Ed "Not A Car Guy" Whitacre Takes Control Of GM Global Product Planning

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
ed not a car guy whitacre takes control of gm global product planning

The executive shake-ups show no signs of stopping at GM, as Ed Whitacre ended the week with yet another re-shuffle. And this time Whitacre himself is the big winner. Automotive News [sub] reports that Whitacre has assumed control of GM’s global product planning, leaving former planning boss Tom Stephens with the more prosaic responsibility of overseeing new product development. Whitacre will be assisted by new VP for product planning Steve Carlisle, who, unlike Whitacre, actually has some experience in product planning. Carlisle replaces Jon Lauckner, who will head up GM’s new venture capital unit. But the big news here is that a man who only just learned the term “segment” about five and a half months ago, is now in charge of GM’s global product planning. Quick learner or egomaniac?

An interesting perspective into the planning and development reshuffle is revealed in a the internal announcement obtained by AN [sub].

Stephens said GM is also seeking to simplify its product-development process. So GM is reducing the number of reviews each vehicle gets by GM’s Global Product Development Council, which includes Stephens, his direct reports and top executives from the global region that will get the vehicle.

That committee will now only review each product four times during its development. That’s “about a third” fewer times than before, spokeswoman McBride said. The intention is to hold lower-tier executives accountable for decision-making, she said.

Devolving development decisions down the food chain is probably a good idea, especially when the upper tiers of management are being taken over by a mad Texan with no industry experience. And a look at some of the changes in engineering and vehicle development staff point to The General’s future direction.

GM’s former mid- and full-size sedan engineering boss Jim Federico has been taken off sedans, and will now serve as group vehicle line executive and chief engineer for global compact, small, mini and electric vehicles. Federico had led the international engineering team that developed the Epsilon II architecture out of Opel, and his reassignment seems to hint at a new emphasis on compact vehicles at GM.

Randy Schwarz will take over as chief engineer and group VLE for mid- and full-size cars, as well as RWD cars. Jim Dolot and Mark Moussa will work under him as chief engineer and VLE for mid- and full-size cars, while Bill Shaw will take over as global VLE for performance and RWD vehicles.

Jeff Luke will become group VLE and chief engineer for global trucks, vans and crossovers, while Jully Burau will become global chief engineer for full-sized trucks.

AN [sub] summarizes some of the other engineering changes:

• John Calabrese, to executive director of body, exterior, interior, safety and HVAC. Changes under him include:

1. Jim Hentschel, to executive director of body, exterior and dimensional engineering;

2. Jeff Boyer, to executive director of interior and safety;

3. Ray Bierzynski, to executive director of HVAC / powertrain cooling.

• Micky Bly adds responsibility for infotainment and OnStar engineering to his role as executive director for electrical systems, hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries. Changes under him are:

1. Tim Nixon, to executive director of infotainment and OnStar engineering; and

2. Kristen Siemen, to executive director for electrical systems.

• Ken Kelzer adds responsibility for induction controls and exhaust and the Canadian engineering center to his role as executive director of chassis.

And apparently the shake-ups will continue. GM’s internal announcement of these changes promises that “other organizational changes” would be announced in the future.

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2 of 19 comments
  • Russification Russification on Jun 08, 2010

    what stage of maturity do you think the auto market is in Dr Ed?

  • Stingray Stingray on Jun 14, 2010

    "The executive shake-ups show no signs of stopping at GM, as Ed Whitacre ended the week with yet another re-shuffle" He seems to be assembling the teams he needs to get the job done. So I would expect the tree to be shaken more. As a manager, you should try to assemble the best group of people possible. That's your team, the people you count on and the people that will get stuff done, on time and rightly. GM has a LOT of good people inside it. I have never ever held a doubt on this (the same is valid for Chrysler and Ford). Putting them in the right places and empowering them (I guess) will (hopefully) translate into better product. "And apparently the shake-ups will continue. GM’s internal announcement of these changes promises that “other organizational changes” would be announced in the future." http://www.hollow-hill.com/sabina/images/thx-captain-obvious.jpg

  • MaintenanceCosts "roughly the same external footprint as a two-row VW Atlas Cross Sport but with - per a VW rep - more interior capacity than the three-row Atlas."And this is why I'm kind of intrigued by this little van, even though for me it's in spite of, not because of, the retro styling and Type 2 nostalgia.
  • Ajla From what I can see in the NHTSA data nontire part failures make up about .5% of reported crashes and aren't listed as a cause in the fatal accident reports. While we've all seen hoopties rolling around I'm guessing they don't go far or fast enough for many negative outcomes to occur from their operation.While I wouldn't want to be in that .5% I'd also want to avoid a "Bear Patrol" situation. When it comes to road safety nontire part failures are more like animal attacks while aggressive or impaired driving are heart disease and cancer.
  • Art Vandelay On the right spec truck, that is a screaming bargain for the price. And you can buy it safe knowing that as it is a Ford you'll never have your vehicle's good name sullied by seeing EBFlex and Tassos puffing each other's peters in one...a nice bonus to the horsepower!
  • Art Vandelay Too small for Tassos and EBFlex to puff each other's peters in.
  • Spookiness I can see revising requirements for newer vehicles, like 3 years, but not for older. I live in a state with safety inspections next to a state without, within a common metro-area commute "shed." Besides the fact that the non-inspection state has a lot of criminals to begin with, they're poorer, less educated, have a lot of paper-tag shady dealers, very lax law enforcement of any kind, and not much of a culture of car maintenance. It's all of their janky hoopties dead or burning on the side of the road every mile that farks up the commute for the rest of us. Having a car inspected just once a year is a minimal price of civilization, and at least is some basic defense against some of the brake-less, rusted-out heaps that show up on YouTubes "Just Rolled In."