General Motors is moving its international headquarters from Zurich, Switzerland, back to the United States, ending a long power battle at European operations.
GM International Operations President Lou Hughes, the center of the struggle, will be transferred to Detroit in September along with 31 other GM International Operations managers.
GM said that the move was part of a global streamlining, and that it 'enables General Motors Europe and the Adam Opel AG International Technical Development Center to focus even more on their Opel/Vauxhall product range.'
By moving the international team to Detroit, GM separates international operations management from its European operations, and distances Hughes and his managers from the daily operations of Opel and Vauxhall.
European executives say that because Opel engineers were so freely used by GM International Operations, Opel quality problems frequently went unresolved, and even new programs were strained because of stretched manpower.
Hughes has been bitterly criticized by top European managers for pulling resources and personnel from Adam Opel AG in Germany to finance an aggressive internationalization program.
The transfer does not include Peter Hanenberger, who has dual functions as head of the Technical Development Center and GM International Operations engineering. An insider said Hanenberger and a handful of his key lieutenants will later be moved from Europe to run a small technical coordinating office in North America for GM International Operations.
Sources said David Herman will be replaced this summer as Opel chairman by Gary Cowger, GM's manufacturing vice president since January. Cowger was introduced to Opel unions earlier this spring and told organized labor was less concerned with who ran Opel than how to stem the maker's losses and increase European investment. The unions are pleased with the GM International Operations moves, said a source.
Hughes has been in Europe since 1987, and has been chairman of Opel and president of GM Europe. GM International Operations was set up in 1994, and has shared quarters with GM Europe in Switzerland and Opel's technical development center in Germany.