DETROIT — As General Motors braces for a shifting industry landscape, its most difficult assignment may fall to Mark Reuss, the 55-year-old mechanical engineer and road racer who leads the company's far-flung Global Product Group.
Reuss has launched a restructuring of his operations, a vast network with 32,000 employees that includes r&d, engineering, design, safety, quality and product planning. His charge is to focus significantly more resources on autonomous and electrified vehicles — particularly battery-electrics — while streamlining GM's army of engineers.
The changes — effective Jan. 1 — include expanded duties for Reuss' top lieutenants as the company prepares to launch at least 20 battery-electric or fuel-cell-powered vehicles globally by 2023.
The restructuring is meant to better align the company's "priorities and accelerate our EV and AV development," said GM spokesman Mike Albano.
As with product czars across the industry, Reuss is working to keep traditional models updated while pivoting toward a new reality — in GM's case, an all-electric future with "zero crashes, zero emissions, zero congestion."
He's also shifting GM's vehicle lineup away from cars to crossovers, SUVs and pickups to align with customer demand.
"Reuss has got a challenge because consumers are still not buying into EVs yet," said Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit. "That's a balancing act a lot of companies are having to sort through right now."
The product development overhaul is connected to a multibillion-dollar restructuring announced by CEO Mary Barra last month. The companywide makeover could lead to the elimination of roughly 14,000 employees, including 15 percent of the automaker's North American salaried work force. It could potentially lead to closure of as many as seven plants around the world, including five in North America.
GM began head-count reductions last month for salaried contract workers after a voluntary buyout offer to 18,000 employees did not yield enough participants to hit the automaker's cost-cutting objectives.
Broader cuts to the salaried work force are expected in January. The company has not provided specifics on the number of cuts, but it is expected to be in the thousands.
The staff reductions will be followed by an end to production at three assembly plants and two powertrain facilities in North America throughout 2019 — potentially putting nearly 6,000 blue-collar workers in the U.S. and Canada on indefinite layoffs.