DETROIT - General Motors last week merged its worldwide automotive operations into one group.
GM hopes the new global organization, similar to Ford Motor Co.'s, will cut red tape and speed GM vehicles to markets around the world.
Under the new plan, GM subsidiary Adam Opel will continue to lead development of small cars globally. Its first global platform, called Delta, will bring cars to market around 2001.
The reorganization eliminated GM's International Operations and the job of its president, Louis Hughes. International Operations was based in Zurich until September, when Hughes and about 30 managers were transferred to Detroit.
All global automotive business is now conducted by GM Automotive Operations headquartered in the USA and headed by Rick Wagoner.
Wagoner, Hughes' former counterpart as president of North American Operations, gets a new title: president and chief operating officer.
Hughes has been assigned a new job as executive vice president of new business strategies and will report to Chairman Jack Smith.
Hughes told reporters he agrees with the changes and said it was redundant to have separate automotive operations.
He also said he doubted he would be looking at major mergers as part of his new job.
'Our primary focus will be on existing alliances,' Hughes said, adding that he will be spending considerable time strengthening GM's automotive business in Asia.
'I will also look at new business opportunities outside the automotive sector such as with Hughes Electronics Corp.,' he said. He was not specific about new business ventures.
The new GM Automotive Operations consists of four regions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America-Africa-Middle East.
Rudy Schlais, Mike Burns and Dick Nerod remain as presidents of GM Asia-Pacific, GM Europe and GM Latin America, respectively. Ronald Zarrella, former group executive of North American sales, service and marketing, was named president of GM North America.
'This new streamlined organization allows us to respond quickly to the needs of customers in a specific region, while at the same time leveraging the experience, talent and diversity of our people worldwide,' Wagoner said.
Next year's planned spin-off of GM's $31 billion parts division, Delphi Automotive Systems, has also pushed the automaker into streamlining its operations.
'With Delphi going, we are looking to see whether we can get further economies' of scale, said Hughes. He said GM is trying to integrate staff functions, such as public relations, personnel and finance.
Consolidating vehicle-related efforts - such as engineering, manufacturing and r&d - will take longer as GM switches to the seven global vehicle platforms, he said.