BRUSSELS - The top product development executive at Adam Opel has resigned. He says General Motors' global expansion is coming at the expense of European business.
Juergen Stockmar, head of Opel's technical development center in Ruesselsheim, Germany, quit earlier this month.
Independently, GM lost another top executive in June. Jonathan Browning, head of GM Europe's new brand management team, moved to Ford.
Stockmar has been at the center of a dispute between GM Europe and GM International Operations.
Some Opel managers at GM Europe say resources and personnel are stretched too thin by aggressive international expansion goals. One result, they say, is lower quality.
An Opel insider said Stockmar wrote a long letter to GM Chairman Jack Smith detailing his reasons for leaving. Stockmar was not available for comment.
He had more than two years left on his contract. He was closely involved in planning GM's global product range and the common platforms that will link North American and European vehicles.
'The speed of globalization is hurting Opel, and all the good people with experience are being drawn away from the technical development center,' complained one Opel insider.
Internal critics say proposals like the Tigra roadster and Maxx city car were killed because capital is going for international expansion. General Motors is building new plants in Argentina, Poland, Thailand and Brazil and is negotiating deals in Russia, Ukraine and China.
One Stockmar complaint, say the sources, involves GM's Delta platform. Delta is the basis of the 2004 Astra, but it has become a North American project because the US wants the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Grand Am replacements to use it in 2000-2001.
'They are making too many changes and not leaving enough for the European car,' said one executive. 'We are worried about it.'
Stockmar's duties will be handled temporarily by his boss Peter Hanenberger, in charge of product development for GM International.
Opel Chairman David Herman last week defended the company's international ambitions. He said the expansion is necessary because western European car markets are saturated. He said Opel will increase investment at home by 50 percent his year and will bring out 26 new models and model variations by the end of 2001.