Find or Sell any Parts for Your Vehicle in USA

General Motors' R&D chief Larry Burns, PR boss Steve Harris set to retire

Thu, 16 Jul 2009

General Motors, following through with plans to shake up management after exiting bankruptcy, said r&d chief Larry Burns and public relations boss Steve Harris will retire.

Burns, 58, will be replaced by Alan Taub. Harris, who came out of retirement more than three years ago, will yield his job to Chris Preuss, 43, vice president in charge of General Motors Europe communications. The appointments take effect Oct. 1.

The moves add to the changes begun five days ago as GM emerged from court protection after almost six weeks of bankruptcy. Chief among them was Vice Chairman Bob Lutz's decision at age 77 to cancel his planned retirement and stay on to steer marketing and communications.

Also today, GM in a statement that Bob Osborne, 54, group vice president and general counsel, will leave the automaker on July 20 and return to private practice. His successor will be Michael Millikin, 60, associate general counsel.

Burns: Hydrogen advocate

While Burns' responsibilities were wide-ranging, he was known as an advocate for hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles. Beginning with the futuristic AUTOnomy concept in 2002, he led a $1 billion investment in fuel cell technology. But the goal of an economically viable fuel cell vehicle by 2010 foundered on the lack of a national hydrogen fueling system.

"The vehicles are proving to be real," Burns told Automotive New in 2008. "We need hydrogen infrastructure."

Burns also oversaw GM's alliance strategy in the early part of this decade, coordinating efforts with Fiat, Suzuki, Isuzu and Subaru parent Fuji Heavy Industries.

Burns, who lost his hearing in 1994, communicates with the help of a cochlear implant. He was a national advocate for hearing-loss prevention.

His successor, Taub, 54, is currently executive director of r&d. He will report Tom Stephens, vice chairman of product development. GM said that beginning today, it is integrating its global r&d and product development operations.

Harris: Retiring again

Harris, 63, was asked to come out of retirement by former CEO Rick Wagoner in January 2006. He initially took the job for 18 to 24 months before agreeing, in mid-2008, to stay through the end of that year.

By that time, GM was surviving on U.S. loans and preparing a case for more federal aid, a process that led to Wagoner's ousting in March and GM's June 1 bankruptcy filing.

One of Harris' top deputies, Tony Cervone, left GM for United Airlines parent UAL Corp. in February.

Harris also is a former communications chief for Chrysler Corp., which he joined via Chrysler's purchase of American Motors in 1987.

Preuss, who started his GM career in 1998 at Cadillac, has also been in charge of global product communications. He will report to Lutz.

In his new role, Lutz will have some oversight of design and attempt to align that world with GM's advertising and marketing messages.

Marketing had been the responsibility of Mark LaNeve, who remains in charge of sales “today,” CEO Fritz Henderson said last Friday.

Also on that day, Henderson took on Troy Clarke's role as president of North America and said Clarke's future would be decided at a later date. At that time, Henderson said other executive changes would be sorted out within three weeks.

By Dave Versical and Dave Guilford- Automotive News