BRUSSELS - General Motors' ailing European operations get a new leader on 1 September, when the head of GM's Delphi Delco Electronics Systems unit takes over as president of GM Europe in Zurich.
Michael Burns, 46, has spent most of his career in GM's components divisions and is considered a protege of J.T. Battenberg III, the chief executive of Delphi Automotive Systems.
He will succeed Richard Donnelly, who will move to the USA as vice president and group executive in charge of manufacturing and quality for GM International Operations.
Burns, who has led Delphi Delco since 1996, arrives at a time when GM Europe is trying to reverse a long slide in earnings and market share.
Donnelly, 55, has been president of GM Europe since December 1994. In his new job he will oversee quality control for the company's product range outside North America and help coordinate GM production strategy around the world.
Both men will report to Louis Hughes, head of GM International Operations. Hughes and his top lieutenants are now shifting operations from Zurich to Detroit.
Burns will head the General Motors Europe strategy board and will also serve on GM's international strategy board.
'This appointment affords us a great opportunity to utilize Mike's previous experiences in engineering, vehicle systems and components to assist in our efforts to achieve our business plans,' said Hughes in a statement.
GM Europe achieved record profits of $1.5 billion in 1989 and a record west European market share of 13.2 percent in 1993. But both categories have declined in recent years. In 1997, GM lost $17 million in Europe, after a $488 million write-off to cover early retirements and to fund competitiveness studies. Earnings fell to $223 million in the first half of 1998 from $406 million in the same period last year.
Opel/Vauxhall's share in western Europe in the first half slipped to 10.7 percent from 11.8 percent a year earlier, though the drop partly resulted from the changeover to the new lower-medium Astra.
GM recently made a change at the top of Adam Opel AG, its largest subsidiary in Europe. Gary Cowger, formerly head of GM Mexico, replaced David Herman as chairman.