Promoting engineer Reuss is right move at GM

December 5, 2009

Promoting engineer Reuss is right move at GM

BY MARK PHELAN
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

Maybe born-and-bred Detroiters with gasoline in their veins aren’t the problem at GM. At least one of them has a chance be a big part of the solution.

GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre put http://www.freep.com/article/20091204/BUSINESS01/91204010/1331/">engineer and second-generation GM executive Mark Reuss in charge of the automaker’s North American operations Friday.

"Job One is stabilizing the engineering and product-development factory: developing great vehicles that please the customer," Reuss said recently.

Reuss, who was in charge of GM’s global engineering operations briefly after successful stints running the Australian unit and performance engineering team, is the son of Lloyd Reuss, another engineer who retired as GM president in 1992.

Elevating Mark Reuss to what’s essentially the most important job below CEO echoes the leadership structure that served GM well for decades: a finance expert as CEO, with an engineer at his right hand.

"Mark’s the guy for the job," said Jim Hall, managing director of 2953 Analytics. "He’s got the skill set it requires: He knows product, marketing and he has the ability to inspire."

Reuss recently spent a few evenings calling customers to get feedback on GM’s vehicles.

"We are reinventing ourselves around what makes vehicles valuable to the customer," he said.

Reuss brings an understanding of how GM’s operations around the world can contribute to fixing long-struggling GM North America.

Mark’s father, Lloyd, who plays a prominent role at Focus: HOPE, Lawrence Technological University and other institutions, spoke with pride of his son’s promotion.

"This is a very difficult time for the auto industry," he said, "but it’s an opportunity to have a tremendous impact on GM and on businesses and people all across the country."

The younger Reuss seems to see it the same way.

"I’ve told everybody to stop worrying about their job and start focusing on the products," Reuss said, addressing fears of further job reductions at GM’s sprawling tech center in Warren. "I want to fill this place. The only way to do that is to develop" great vehicles.

"If we do a great job," he said, "we can be recession-proof because customers will want our products."

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