Erhard “Hardy” Spranger has worked in 11 countries during his 42 years with General Motors. The native of Austria began as a specialist in sales promotion working in Vienna. Today he is executive-in-charge of Chevrolet Europe, formerly known as GM Daewoo Europe, and is based at General Motors Europe’s headquarter near Zurich, Switzerland.
In the last two years Spranger has increased Chevrolet’s sales from 100,000 to 190,000 units in Europe, including Russia and the Ukraine. During the same period he also has restructured the brand’s European dealer network, boosting its size 40 percent to almost 1,800 sales outlets.
The 62-year-old wants to continue the European success story of the South Korean-built cars that now carry the iconic US brand name until he retires. After he leaves the company he plans to move to one of the few countries his GM career has not located him – Canada.
Name: Erhard “Hardy” Spranger.
Title: Chevrolet Europe executive-in-charge.
Family: Wife Marialuisa; daughter Sonja, 33; son Erhard, 38; granddaughter Laura Sofia, 4.
Languages: German, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French.
Countries lived in: Austria, USA, Germany, Norway, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Singapore, Turkey, Switzerland.
First car: A yellow Steyr Puch 500 with a soft top.
What is in your garage now? A Chevrolet Lacetti and an Opel Astra coupe.
What is your greatest personal achievement to date? Never smoking.
What are the highlights of your career to date? Turning Daewoo into Chevrolet in Europe.
How do you relax? Working in the garden and, occasionally playing tennis. My true hobby, however, is collecting and reading books.
What kind of books do you like to read? I collect books mainly, but not exclusively, on Austrian and Viennese history. At the moment I am reading a book by Eva Menasse titled “Vienna.”
When you come home after work what is the first thing you do? Kiss my wife.
If you could meet any figure from history who would it be? Alfred P. Sloan, GM president from 1923 to 1937 and chairman from 1937 to 1956. He turned an assortment of different automotive and component companies into the largest automobile manufacturer in the world.
What personal things do you have in your office? A case full of business books and a design drawing of a concept car signed by many of my friends. It was given to me on my 40th anniversary with the company.
What are you good at? Working with people.
What are your strongest personality traits? Tenacity, patience and outward calm.
When are you not at your best? At parties when small talk is the order of the evening.
What do you dislike about your profession? Endless meetings.
What was the most fun you had last year? Turning Daewoo into Chevrolet.
What are your most treasured possessions? My books, which I will catalogue as soon as I retire.
Where would you really like to live? As soon as I retire, my wife and I will move to Vancouver, Canada.
If you were to choose an alternative career what would it be? I’ve always wanted to be a diplomat.
What are your strongest attributes as a team leader? I try to lead by example.
Who are your real-life heroes? People who help others without regard for their own life.
Do you have any regrets? Not starting my own business.
Where do you like to shop? In Vienna, Rome, New York and on the Internet.
What is the car your dreams? After having driven it, a Corvette Z06.