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Francis lauds Olds lineup

The now-doomed Oldsmobile division has a fabulous lineup, one of the best in General Motors, says Karen Francis, president of Ford Motor Co.'s ConsumerConnect e-business operation.

2001 Management Briefing Seminars index

Francis was Oldsmobile's general manager from 1998 to 2000 before leaving for a start-up Internet company. She joined Ford in April.

GM said last December that because of slow sales it will phase out Oldsmobile within five years.

"I am sad about the decision. It was always a question of what GM's time frame would be for Oldsmobile's recovery," not when the division would be axed, Francis said Thursday in an interview at the Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich.

The death of Oldsmobile came as a surprise, Francis said. Her jump to Internet Capital Group was an "investment in my career" and didn't happen because the writing was on the wall for Oldsmobile, GM's oldest division.

Under Francis' tenure, Oldsmobile killed off the last of its old-style cars, the Eighty Eight, Ninety Eight and Cutlass, and replaced them with the Intrigue and Alero, sporty cars aimed at younger buyers. Sales stabilized but didn't improve fast enough, GM officials said, to justify making a new investment in replacement models.

"I'll always be proud of what I did at Oldsmobile," Francis said.

You can reach Richard Truett at rtruett@crain.com

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