MOSCOW (Bloomberg) -- Siegfried Wolf, co-CEO of Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc., has been named chairman of van and truck producer GAZ.
Wolf, who will keep his job at Magna, joined the GAZ board of directors last year. He took over as chairman on Jan. 1 from Bo Andersson, who dropped the job to concentrate on his managerial role as president.
“We kept it kind of quiet,” Wolf, 52, said in an interview by mobile phone. “We didn't make a public relations campaign out of it,” he said. “The important thing is the results of GAZ. We have to make it profitable.”
Built in 1929 with the help of Ford Motor Co. and now owned by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, GAZ was forced to slash about a third of its staff as demand for its products plunged by as much as 70 percent during the financial crisis that started in the second half of 2008. That October, with his companies struggling to refinance more than $20 billion of debt, Deripaska ceded to banks the shares in Magna that he had bought in May 2007 for $1.54 billion.
Magna, based in Aurora, Ontario, joined with Russian lender Sberbank last year in a failed bid to acquire General Motors Co.'s Opel/Vauxhall unit.
The partners said then that they would consider making Opel cars at GAZ's facilities in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod. Andersson was GM's top purchasing executive until last year, when he quit to join GAZ.
“Andersson has done a great job of pushing the company in the right direction and things are going well,” Wolf said. GAZ will do “very well” in the long run, Wolf said. “GAZ has a very strong work force.”
GAZ reached a deal with more than 20 banks last month on restructuring $1.3 billion of debt after more than a year of talks. The company expects sales to grow 25 percent this year to 84 billion rubles ($2.9 billion), Andersson said last month.
GAZ sold 11,140 vehicles in the first quarter, a decline of 8 percent from the same period last year, according to data released today by the Association of European Businesses. That includes 4,723 in March, or 9 percent less than in the same month of 2009.
Natalia Anisimova, spokeswoman for GAZ, declined to comment on Wolf's appointment, as did Daniel Witzani, a spokesman for Magna in Europe.