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General Motors vice-chairman Steve Girsky will serve as acting head of European operations while GM searches for a successor to Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke. (Richard Drew/AP)
General Motors vice-chairman Steve Girsky will serve as acting head of European operations while GM searches for a successor to Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke. (Richard Drew/AP)

Another Opel CEO steps down Add to ...

General Motors Co. pushed aside another chief executive at Opel as it moves to reverse 12 years of losses in Europe.

GM said Opel CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke had stepped down to take on “special assignments” for GM CEO Dan Akerson. GM vice-chairman Steve Girsky, who heads Opel’s board, will serve as acting head of Europe while GM searches for a successor to Mr. Stracke.

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Analysts said the move showed the U.S. automaker’s growing intolerance for losses in Europe.

“This is a clear sign that GM was getting impatient and that [Mr.] Girsky believes he can do a better job,” IHS Automotive analyst Christoph Stuermer said. “Remember that they did not call the business plan that was passed on June 28 a ‘restructuring plan.’ If they had a clear candidate waiting in the wings they would have named him today.”

Two weeks ago, the supervisory board for Opel approved a mid-term business plan in a step toward returning to profitability. But real savings in a restructuring will not come until GM negotiates a deal with labour unions to close the Bochum, Germany plant after 2016.

“We’ve lost $14 billion in the last 12 years. It’s got to stop,” Mr. Akerson said of Europe on June 28. “We’re looking at some sort of agreement with our unions that would allow us to consolidate.”

The change means Opel will see its fourth CEO in less than three years. Hans Demant was pushed aside in November 2009 and was replaced two months later by Nick Reilly, who lasted until April 2011.

One Opel board member initially did not believe the news of Mr. Stracke’s exit, while a person close to labour representatives on the board said they were caught “completely by surprise.” Both asked not to be identified in discussing the management change.

Mr. Stracke was due to address an industry conference in Munich on Thursday; development chief Rita Forst came instead.

Earlier on Thursday, ailing alliance partner Peugeot said it would cut 8,000 jobs and close the Aulnay plant in 2014.

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