* Sedran to start new job in Europe next month
* GM hopes to communicate Chevy, Opel differences more
* GM CEO: Chevy in Europe needed 'fresh perspective'
By Christiaan Hetzner and Ben Klayman
FRANKFURT/WARREN, Mich., June 26 General Motors
Co has named Opel's strategy chief to run the European
operations of GM's two global brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac.
GM hopes that bringing Thomas Sedran to Chevrolet, starting
next month, will help boost sales of the U.S. brand while
differentiating its European strategy from Opel's.
He succeeds Chevy Europe head Susan Docherty, who never
managed to increase sales of GM's budget brand in Europe during
her 18-month stint. She will be leaving GM in September.
GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson told reporters on Wednesday
that the Detroit company needed a "fresh perspective" for the
Chevy brand in Europe, including a reassessment of how Chevy and
Opel fit together in terms of price, vehicle content and where
the brands are sold.
"He understands the channel conflicts we've inevitably had
between Opel and Chevrolet," Akerson said of Sedran.
"We've done a pretty good positioning between Opel and
Chevrolet in Russia, but we haven't done it as well as I would
have hoped in Western Europe, so we have to take a fresh look,"
he said at GM's technical center outside Detroit.
Akerson reiterated that GM stands behind the money-losing
Opel unit. "We have a long journey to carry forward, but I would
say that Opel is doing better. We've made a statement that we're
not giving up on Opel."
GM, which almost sold Opel in 2009, has lost money in Europe
for 13 consecutive years, but plans to return to break-even
level by mid-decade.
Sedran, a former auto industry consultant for AlixPartners
who joined Opel in April last year, served as interim CEO for
the loss-making European brand from last July until the arrival
of Karl-Thomas Neumann in March.
Sedran said Chevrolet had one of the youngest model ranges
after launching 15 new or upgraded models in the past three
years including the Trax subcompact SUV, while Cadillac expected
to attract new customers with cars such as the sporty ATS, which
competes against the BMW 3 Series.
Chevy, which imports cars to Europe almost exclusively from
GM's South Korean unit, has lost ground to low-cost rivals
Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp.
While Chevrolet's market share in Europe dropped to 1.1
percent during the first five months of this year from the
average 1.3 percent when Docherty took over at the start of
2012, Korean budget brands Hyundai and Kia grew theirs by
roughly half a percentage point each, to 3.5 percent and 2.7
Cadillac sold fewer than 500 cars in western and central
Europe last year out of the roughly 196,000 Cadillacs sold
Separately, Opel said Tina Mueller, who recently ran
Henkel's Beauty Care cosmetics division for Western
Europe, will become chief marketing officer from Aug. 1.