Despite strenuous official denials to media rumours earlier this year, ex-GM executive Phil Murtaugh has joined Shanghai Automotive (SAIC) in one of the most senior appointments ever of a foreigner to a Chinese state-owned firm.

He will become an executive VP in charge of the firm's overseas operations.

Murtagh unexpectedly left his position as GM's China boss in the spring of 2005 (click here for news item). He played a key role in GM's relations with SAIC and oversaw the Shanghai-GM joint venture. 

Rumours that he would be joining SAIC surfaced in the Chinese media earlier this year (click here).

The appointment reinforces SAIC's strategy to make itself into a significant international player within the global auto industry.

SAIC also has a carmaking joint venture with Volkswagen, but is planning to develop its own range of vehicles. SAIC's major overseas asset is Ssangyong Motor in South Korea.