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GME chief's departure stuns auto insiders

General Motors Europe president Mike Burns surprised many in the automotive industry with the announcement he is moving to become head of leading US parts supplier Dana Corp.

His programme to restructure GM's complex European operations will be continued by Fritz Henderson, GM's Asian chief, when he moves to GM Europe in early summer. Until then Bob Lutz will take over as interim president of GM's European business.

Burns, 51, was closely associated with managing GM's joint ventures with Fiat, and also making GM Europe a more streamlined, effective organisation. He has been president of GM Europe since September 1998, and has worked for GM for 33 years.

“Mike has led a major restructuring of our European operations, which has made significant progress under very difficult circumstances,” GM chief Rick Wagoner says. “He deserves a lot of the credit for making our joint ventures with Fiat a success, and for beginning the effort to make GM a true multi-brand franchise across Europe.”

Meanwhile, rival Ford has announced that Peter Horbury, executive director of design at the Premier Automotive Group, has been promoted to executive director of design for Ford, Mercury and Lincoln in North America. Horbury, widely credited for transforming Volvo's fortunes while design director from 1991-2002, was appointed to the PAG role two years ago. It created an extra level of management between Jaguar design boss Ian Callum, Land Rover design director Geoff Upex and Henrick Otto at Volvo, and Ford vice-president J Mays.

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