David Herman spent part of his early General Motors life in London studying business opportunities in the Soviet Union. Now, more than two decades later, Herman is back on the Russian beat - the next stage in a varied and highly unusual GM career.
Herman, 52, is leaving the top job at Adam Opel after six years - a record tenure at the modern Opel - to oversee GM's fledgling operations in the former Soviet Union. It may be seen as a demotion, but Herman has a personal opportunity that goes beyond merely climbing the next rung on the GM ladder.
A Russian speaker of Belarussian descent, Herman has never spent a day of his professional career posted in Detroit. He brings with him an internationalism - a sense of history, culture and language -that will be crucial in Russia. But he is not going to Moscow to intellectualize. Europe has seen few auto businessmen who are more competitive than Herman.
With the crisis deepening in emerging Asia, Russia has become the most promising untapped auto market in the world. To say that it is difficult to do business in Russia is like saying that it is incon-venient to breathe under water. But General Motors will have a great advantage in the person of Herman.