General Motors’ China chief Bob Socia is stepping down after just over a year in the job. He will be replaced by Matthew Tsien, a GM vice president.

Socia will retire on 1 January and, although he became president of the China operations only as recently as October 2012, GM said the change was a planned move.

GM chief Dan Akerson said in a statement: “When Bob was appointed president of our largest market, our plan was for him to help prepare his successor. Matt is now ready to step into the role and we wish Bob the best in his retirement.”

The carmaker is spending US$11bn in China to the end of 2016 and is on track to sell 3m vehicles there this year. It plans to step up promotion of its Chevrolet and Cadillac brands as it battles to fend off competition from Volkswagen for the top foreign automaker spot in the country.

Though GM delivered more vehicles in China than any other foreign automaker during 2012, the US carmaker was outsold by VW in three of the past four quarters, noted Bloomberg News.

Tsien currently oversees product planning at GM China and his past roles include leading the Chinese joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling as executive vice president from 2009 to 2012. He also helped negotiate early partnerships with SAIC, including passenger vehicle venture Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Centre.

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