NICK GIBBS

Bo Andersson, Patrick Pelata and other Opel CEO possibilities

Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent for Automotive News Europe.Nick Gibbs is UK correspondent for Automotive News Europe.
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So who's going to be the next head of General Motors' troubled Opel/Vauxhall unit? The list of candidates should include ex-GM procurement boss Bo Andersson, former Renault No. 2 Patrick Pelata and Jean-Marc Gales, who was second in command at PSA/Peugeot-Citroen until earlier this year.

All three have vast experience competing in the mass-market and two of the three - Andersson and Gales - have worked for General Motors.

Opel needs to replace former CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke who left the post earlier this month. Restructuring specialist Thomas Sedran was named Stracke's interim successor last week.

Whoever takes full-time control of Opel will face the challenge of turning around a business that has lost billions since GM emerged from U.S. bankruptcy protection in 2009.

Andersson, 56, who is now head of GAZ Group in Russia, led a savage restructuring of the automotive giant. He joined GAZ in 2009 after bad investments put the company 1 billion euros in debt. In less than three years, he has made the company profitable.

The Swedish native left GM during its bankruptcy reshuffle. He stayed friendly and those ties helped GAZ win a contract to build Chevrolets for GM in Russia.

German unions won't scare Andersson, who received death threats while halving GAZ's work force during the company's restructuring.

Andersson's background in procurement would ensure the best deals were struck and maximum cost savings extracted from the partnership with PSA.

Ghosn's trusted ally

Pelata is another strong candidate. Renault's former chief operating officer resigned from that post last year in the wake of an espionage scandal. He remained at the company before announcing last week he would departure in August.

Pelata, 56, was the No. 2 at the French automaker and a trusted ally of Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Pelata's knowledge of how Ghosn successfully brought the two companies together would be invaluable to GM as it tries to build a lasting partnership with PSA.

Like Opel, Renault is struggling to sell cars in Europe, but it has been very successful expanding into emerging markets. That's something Opel is keen to do as it looks for find new customers to soak up capacity.

News agency Bloomberg reported that Pelata has already joined a technology company in California, but that hasn't been confirmed.

PSA insider

Gales is a former PSA board member who could be very useful in helping the GM-PSA partnership work.

Currently head of European automotive supplier body CLEPA, Gales was appointed to take PSA upmarket in his role as head of brands and was considered successful at this. He left PSA in March this year amid rumors that he clashed with CEO Philippe Varin.

Gales, 49, has knowledge of other European makers, including Mercedes-Benz, where he was global sales director from 2006 to 2009. In addition, he has been a marketing director at Volkswagen and as well as head of sales and marketing for Opel and Saab in central Europe.

Luxembourg-born Gales also has knowledge of China, serving as a director of PSA partner Dongfeng Motors. His keenness to expand in emerging markets would play well at Opel, which plans to target Brazil with low-cost cars as part of the PSA alliance.

German media have mentioned former Daimler executive Rainer Schmueckle, who is now COO at supplier Johnson Controls's automotive unit, as a strong candidate for the Opel job. And the man currently leading the automaker, Sedran, should not be overlooked.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at nick.gibbs@btinternet.com.

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