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GM elects new president

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Posted: Wednesday, October 7, 1998 1:00 am

DETROIT (AP) -- General Motors Tuesday named G. Richard Wagoner Jr. as president and chief operating officer in a major reorganization that merges its North American and international automotive operations.

Jack Smith, who is giving up the president's title, remains as chairman and chief executive officer. The promotion of Wagoner, who will lead the consolidated unit, could put him in line to succeed the 60-year-old Smith when he retires.

GM is merging its two independent automotive units in hopes of responding more quickly to changing market needs around the world. GM has long been criticized for the time it takes to develop new cars and trucks.

``That's the whole focus -- to get to the customer faster with great products,'' Smith told reporters.

GM is merging the North American and international operations' engineering, marketing and management under one group that will be divided into four regional divisions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Latin America-Africa-Mideast. Each region will have its own president who will report to Wagoner.

Wagoner, 45, previously headed North American operations, GM's largest and most profitable unit.

Smith said the consolidation will not result in major job cuts, though some early retirements may be offered as redundant positions are eliminated.

The reorganization follows GM's announcement in August that it plans to spin off its huge Delphi Automotive Systems parts unit by the end of 1999. That deal could be complicated by resistance from the United Auto Workers union, which enters national contract talks with GM next June.

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