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Opel CEO Stracke resigns in middle of turnaround
Opel says CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke resigns to take on special assignments for parent GM
By The Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) The CEO of General Motor's lossmaking European business has abruptly resigned from his current role, just two weeks after presenting a new plan to turn the struggling Opel and Vauxhall brands around.

Adam Opel GmbH said in a statement that Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke would stay with GM and take on special projects, reporting to GM head Dan Akerson.

The company added that GM Vice-Chairman Steve Girsky, who is the head of Opel's board of directors, would serve as acting head of GM's European operations while looking for a replacement for Stracke, a veteran GM executive.

Akerson said in a statement that the 56-year-old Stracke "worked tirelessly, under great pressure, to stabilize this business and we look forward to building on his success."

The Opel statement quoted Stracke as saying "I am leaving my current position knowing that Opel/Vauxhall has a bright future."

The US automaker has made clear it is determined to return its lossmaking European business, which includes Opel and the Vauxhall brand in Britain, to profitability despite tough competition among mass-market carmakers.

GM is in the midst of a difficult effort to turn round its lossmaking Opel and Vauxhall businesses in Europe. A partnership with PSA Peugeot Citroen offers a chance for cutting costs but will not show results for several years. Meanwhile, Opel is barred for now from closing plants in Germany to cut excess capacity.

Stracke's departure comes two weeks after the Opel board approved a new overhaul plan at its June 28 meeting. The company said it is looking to add new models in segments in coming model years where it currently has no offerings, seek new markets in emerging economies, and look at moving other GM production to Europe to make best use of plant capacity.

Opel has also said it was in talks to guarantee German workers jobs through 2016, after which the closure of the plant in Bochum, Germany, was widely expected. In return, workers gave up a 4.3 percent wage agreed in industry-wide negotiations. German labor contracts had tied the company's hands, barring layoffs through 2014.

The company has also agreed on a partnership with France's PSA Peugeot Citroen, but that effort will take several years to bear fruit. The alliance is to focus on sharing platforms the basic mechanical foundations and parts modules to save costs from larger volumes, but the first common platform was not expected to launch before 2016.

Bochum is an older, higher-cost, facility but factory closings are expensive and politically difficult in Germany, where severance costs can be high, worker representatives sit on company boards and unions have political clout.

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