General Motors vice chairman Bob Lutz and group vice president Gary Cowger will focus full-time on global responsibilities - Lutz on product development and Cowger on manufacturing/labour - and relinquish their current roles at GM North America which chairman and CEO Wagoner will now head GMNA, retaining his current positions.

"Given the challenges we face in North America, it makes sense for me to assume control of GMNA's day-to-day operations and shorten the lines of communication and decision-making," Wagoner said in a statement.

"At the same time, as we look at our global business, it's clear that the two areas most critical to our future success are achieving excellence in every product we develop, and doing it with the most competitive manufacturing system. And Bob and Gary are our two executives most experienced and skilled in these key areas."

Wagoner said that GM has operated much of its business on a global basis for several years now and has made considerable progress in better utilising its global resources and capabilities to serve regional and local markets more effectively.

"We've come very far on the long journey from our traditional stand-alone business model for each major national market, and more recently for each of our four regions. Now's the right time to accelerate the global integration of two of our most important functions, product development and manufacturing/labour," he added.

"With the ongoing globalisation of GM's product development organisation, and the implementation of our global architecture strategy, Bob felt he needed to devote his efforts to product development full-time, and I agreed," Wagoner said.

"I'll continue to value his business advice and support, but Bob's legacy at GM will be in our future cars and trucks. It makes sense for him to devote his full energies to that critical task.

"The next stage is to enhance our manufacturing flexibility globally and more effectively integrate our global manufacturing capacity. It's logical to have Gary focus his full efforts on that," he said. "He has worked effectively around the world, and understands the opportunities and challenges of leveraging our manufacturing capabilities.

"In manufacturing, one of our biggest challenges is our lack of cost-competitiveness in the United States, which is due to our legacy costs, especially the ever-increasing burden of high health-care expenses," Wagoner said. "Addressing this challenge in a fair and equitable way requires close work with our union partners, in addition to our ongoing work with government and health-care providers.

"With his vast experience in labour relations, Gary is the ideal person to do this."