HARALD HAMPRECHT

Stracke is the right choice to head Opel

Harald Hamprecht is Editor-in-Chief at Automotive News EuropeHarald Hamprecht is Editor-in-Chief at Automotive News Europe
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Bob Hendry, Carl-Peter Forster, Hans Demant, Nick Reilly – and now Karl-Friedrich Stracke, who will be the fifth head of General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall division within the last decade.

The timing of 55-year-old Stracke's appointment, which takes effect April 1, is surprising because current Opel CEO Nick Reilly has done a good job. Reilly, 60, has worked tirelessly to restructure GM's money-losing European operations – including during weekends - and could have stayed until he reached his goals, especially his target of restoring Opel to profitability in 2012.

The reasons why Stracke will replace Reilly, who will now chair Opel's supervisory board and have strategic oversight of GM in Europe, are not clear.

But the choice of Stracke is not at all surprising. Stracke would have succeeded Reilly as Opel boss anyway in a few years. He is the right person to head the German-based automaker.

Why?

• He is an engineer.

• He has known Opel since 1979 – its history, people, products, strengths and weaknesses.

• He knows parent-company GM better than hardly any other Opel manager.

• He's German and this is never a disadvantage when heading a German brand, especially if you have to deal with German unions.

• He is still young – for a CEO.

The father of two adult daughters is physically fit and plays tennis and jogs whenever his time allows. Moving from Detroit to Ruesselsheim where Opel is based, will improve his private life, which is important to stay 100 percent focused on your job, especially with the big challenges that Stracke will face at Opel. When Stracke moved to Detroit to head GM's global vehicle engineering, his wife stayed in Rhine-Hesse.

Karl-Friedrich Stracke is coming home – in private and business terms. And it would be good if he serves as Opel's chief for the next 10 to 12 years. Opel needs a long-serving boss who will become its face. And the brand with the lightning in its logo also needs continuity at the top.

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