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Vauxhall/GM vacancy as Kevin Wale heads east

Vauxhall chairman Kevin Wale has been appointed as head of General Motors’ Chinese operation, after just over three years in charge in the UK.

The appointment follows the sudden resignation of Philips Murtaugh who left for “unspecified personal reasons” after almost five years as chairman and managing director of GM’s China Group.

Wale is vice-president for GM Europe, head if GM in the UK and had previously spent 15 years running GM’s operations in the Asia Pacific region.

Vauxhall has experienced major changes since Wale took over in August 2001. His goal then was to “make sure Vauxhall is the best car and van company in the UK. Full stop.”

Part of this aim involved focusing on strong products and introducing high-performance variants across the range. As a result, Australian-born Wale was responsible for establishing the VXR brand and for bringing his native V8-powered Holden Monaro coupe to UK shores and rebadging it Vauxhall as a boost to its brand image.

He also oversaw the launch of key models such as the Meriva, Astra, Vectra estate, Tigra and Signum, although sales of the latter have struggled. The rebranding of GM Daewoo as Chevrolet from the beginning of this year has been another of Wale’s achievements.

Talking to AM in early 2002, his focus on the performance area of Vauxhall was clear.

“Our biggest focus will be to make sure we get the right sporting models into our line-ups at the right stages in each. We’ve got to do a better job of making the product more desirable,” he said.

The job in China should provide ample challenges to Wale. GM has been switching from Buick to new Chevrolet models which saw sales increase by 27% last year. But sales have dropped nearly 6% so far this year.

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