Bob Hendry, chairman of Adam Opel AG, says he's nearly done and is getting ready to move on to something new. But not just yet.
'I've been in turnarounds and startups the last 20 years,' said Hendry, 56. 'I've been in the industry for a long time. I would like to do something different, but the time has not come yet,' he said.
When asked when he planned to leave Opel, Hendry said, 'There's not a definite answer to that.'
German newspapers have speculated that General Motors, Opel's parent company, will replace Hendry soon with Carl-Peter Forster, former production czar at BMW.
Hendry and GM Europe President Mike Burns, interviewed together on September 27, said Opel has been aggressively recruiting more European-born executives. They believe that has fueled the speculation about Hendry's future.
'If it takes any of the management team at Opel's eye off the ball, it bothers the hell out of me,' Hendry said.
Added Burns: 'Bob is running Opel, and that's the end of the story. He's doing a good job with the brand, he's doing a good job with the people. He's dealing with some tough issues, and I think there's still some heavy lifting to do.'
In 1998 GM added Opel to Hendry's responsibilities to turn around that company.
In the mid-1990s, GM used Opel engineers and resources to expand outside western Europe. Many Opel staffers objected, saying GM neglected Opel's needs in Europe.
Opel sales rose 5.3 percent in 1999, but sales were down 7.1 percent through eight months of this year. The Zafira compact minivan is selling well, but the Astra, Opel's best seller, is down 21.3 percent to 335,308 through eight months. The Astra faces tough competition from lower-medium models such as the VW Golf, Ford Focus and Peugeot 306.
GM sent Hendry to Europe in 1996 to be CEO of Saab Automobile, a position he still holds.
Hendry said Opel has the right management team in place for the future. Both he and Burns also said Opel should have a European executive leading it, someone who understands the culture.
'I think it's going to be more important in the future because the competition is so intense,' Hendry said. 'Those who understand the customers the best are going to win.'