BRUSSELS - With little discussion and a unanimous vote, Adam Opel AG's supervisory board appointed Gary Cowger as the new chairman of GM's German subsidiary.
The quiet proceedings marked the end of more than a year of internal turbulence and restructuring of GM's European operations.
According to a source at Opel, Opel's unions helped its management get more independence from GM Europe and GM International Operations.
Opel's unions hold 10 of the 20 voting seats on the supervisory board.
They had threatened to block Cowger's appointment, leading to months of talks with executives in Detroit and Zurich.
The unions extracted promises from GM that Opel management will have the resources to improve its products and maintain and strengthen its German identity.
GM Chairman Jack Smith personally met members of the supervisory board during his trip to Europe in April.
He had been worried about the problems at Opel, and he promised in January to spend more time in Europe. Smith agreed to transfer GM International Operations from Zurich to Detroit.
Hans Wilhelm Gaeb, chairman of the Opel supervisory board, hinted at the behind-the-scenes negotiations between Opel and GM when he announced Cowger's ap-pointment.
He called the unanimous vote 'a remarkable act of unity' made possible only because of 'cooperation between GM and its employees.'
Sources said Gaeb led the discussions and acted as a mediator between labor and management.
Rudolf Mueller, chairman of the Opel General Works Council and vice chairman of the supervisory board, praised Jack Smith for taking 'seriously the wishes and concerns expressed by employees.'
He thanked Smith for his personal involvement 'in efforts to improve coordination between Adam Opel AG and GM Europe.'
Cowger, 51, was due to assume the top job on 19 June, the day after Opel's 1997 re-sults were to be released at the annual financial press conference in Frankfurt.
The event would be the final formal appearance for David Herman, 52, who leaves the chairman's post after six years.
Herman will move to Moscow to become a GM corporate vice president for Russia and all the markets of the former Soviet Union.