This year Opel turns 150, but the company has very little to celebrate, with news emerging overnight that Karl-Friedrich Stracke, president of General Motors Europe and the current CEO of Opel, is stepping down from the top role to focus on special assignments reporting to GM head honcho Dan Akerson.
In the meantime Steve Girsky, the man charged with turning things around at Opel, will serve as the acting head of the company until a suitable replacement for Stracke can be found.
The announcement comes just two weeks after Opel presented a turnaround plan that would see the company abandon a previous plan to position itself as a near-premium player and instead focus on its core affordability and value strengths.
Opel, faced with a shrinking European market, is plagued with overcapacity issues and is bleeding money. Together with its British subsidiary Vauxhall, Opel lost more than the $256 million in the first quarter of the year and without change may end up losing more than the $747 million it lost last year.
There are suggestions that GM is looking for a much faster turnaround for its European operations. One strategy will be to close Opel’s plant in Bochum, Germany, though not until 2016. Due to labor laws, closing a plant is very difficult and quite costly, which is one of the reasons why no major German car plant has closed since World War II.
Another strategy being implemented is closer integration with PSA Peugeot Citroen, which is suffering from similar problems to Opel.
No other details about Stracke’s resignation have been revealed, though in a statement he said, “I am leaving my current position knowing that Opel/Vauxhall has a bright future, and I am looking forward to taking on new challenges for GM and Dan Akerson.”
Stracke, who has been with GM for more than three decades, only took the head job at Opel last year, replacing Nick Reilly. His 10-point turnaround plan revealed two weeks ago included introducing new, more efficient models, streamlining the operations, expanding exports and further collaboration with rival firms to reduce costs and development lead times.
Pictured above is the recently revealed Opel Adam, a minicar that will serve as the new entry to the brand when it hits showrooms later this year.