GM Europe president and Opel/Vauxhall CEO Karl-Friedrich Stracke on Thursday stepped down from his position to take on special assignments reporting to GM chairman and CEO Dan Akerson, the automaker announced.

GM vice chairman Steve Girsky, currently chairman of the Opel Supervisory Board, will serve as acting head of GM’s European operations as the company searches for a replacement, a statement said. The board will soon appoint an interim chairman of the management board.

Stracke, 56, was also management board chairman and headed the effort to put Opel/Vauxhall on a path toward sustained profitability in the midst of a massive European economic downturn, GM said.

“Karl Stracke worked tirelessly, under great pressure, to stabilise this business and we look forward to building on his success. We appreciate Karl’s many contributions to GM’s success,” said Akerson.

“I am leaving my current position knowing that Opel/Vauxhall has a bright future”, added Stracke. “And I am looking forward to taking on new challenges for GM and Dan Akerson.”

“Steve Girsky seems to be gunning for the top GM  job the next time it becomes available. Turning around GM’s operations in Europe would be a huge step toward the throne,” said senior analyst Michelle Krebs.

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