General Motors has nominated Roberto Rempel, executive chief engineer for small SUVs and mini vehicles, as the head of its R&D unit in Korea. GM highlighted Rempel's engineering credentials as evidence of its ongoing commitment to Korea, a territory where it has racked up considerable losses in recent years and is in the process of reducing manufacturing capacity.

GM's R&D unit is the subject of considerable controversy in Korea because GM plans to spin it off from GM Korea and establish a separate technical centre. There is considerable opposition to the plan in Korea from unions and also the state-run Korea Development Bank (the KDB has a 17% stake in GM Korea's operations and has been instrumental in providing finance), who fear it's part of a bigger plan to wind down GM's manufacturing commitment to Korea.

The spin-off, approved at a GM Korea shareholder meeting in October, could enable GM to keep a separate engineering centre operating while exiting the market and manufacturing in Korea.

"Roberto Rempel's experience and deep knowledge of GM's global engineering and the engineering capability in Korea will be critical to the long-term success of the GM Technical Center Korea," said GM Executive Vice President Barry Engle.

The carmaker has also named Michael Simcoe, GM global vice president of design, and Sam Basile, GM global vice president of portfolio planning, as members of the board of the GM Technical Center Korea that it plans to launch early next month.

"The nomination of Michael Simcoe and Sam Basile to the board will ensure that the GM Technical Center Korea is directly connected to global planning for future product development programs," Engle said.