As it drives to restore profitability, General Motors has clipped the independence of Opel/Vauxhall and Saab in Europe by centralising finance, engineering, purchasing, manufacturing, sales/marketing and aftersales, product planning, quality, human resources, legal and communications as pan-European organisations based at its Zurich, Switzerland, head office – with the leader of each tasked with “significantly improving the effectiveness of the function throughout Europe”.

GM is also creating a single, pan-European design organisation which combines Opel and Saab design, as well as advanced vehicle design.

But the company has stopped short of axing staff or plants, at least for the moment.

Fritz Henderson has been named chairman of GM Europe and Carl-Peter Forster becomes president of GME, reporting to Henderson. Hans Demant remains vice president of engineering for GME and succeeds Forster as managing director of Adam Opel AG. Forster also was named chairman of the Opel supervisory board, replacing Hans Barth, who remains on the board.

“These executive moves are an important element of our reorganisation in Europe,” GM chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement released on Friday.

“We are formalising a single operating culture in Europe that will pull all the units of GM Europe in the same direction, leveraging the vast resources of the global GM family.”

“We’re asking all of our European employees to recalibrate themselves to a mindset of working for General Motors overall, instead of an individual brand or country operation,” Henderson said.

“While maintaining brand character and integrity is vital, working together as one team is equally critical to future success. These are not mutually exclusive goals.”

Forster added: “In today’s competitive automotive climate here in Europe – and around the world, for that matter – we must avoid duplicative or ‘isolated’ operations that don’t capitalise on opportunities that exist by working within the overall GM system. We will grow the Opel, Vauxhall and Saab brands going forward. But we will do so using all of the resources here in Europe and throughout GM.”

Tim Lee, GME vice president, manufacturing; Jamal El-Hout, vice president, planning; Roger Johansson, vice president, purchasing; Peter Dersley, vice president, quality; and Demant will report to Forster, as will Peter Augustsson at Saab Automobile in Sweden and Kevin Wale at Vauxhall Motors in the United Kingdom.

Augustsson and Wale have been ordered to ‘align’ their organisations with the GME functions.

“Today’s announcements are not about cutting our way to prosperity, or diminishing the importance of individual brands, but rather about being able to introduce products that are consistent with the individual brand character, without having to start from a clean sheet of paper for each and every component, each and every time,” said Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of product development, and former interim president of GM Europe.

“We need to be better represented in the newer product niches, such as crossover vehicles and SUVs,” Lutz said. “To do that, we need to become more effective at spending our capital on product programmes.

“This organisational alignment helps us build a global environment that allows the rest of the world to capitalise on the skills and expertise here in Europe, whether that expertise lies in Germany, Sweden, the UK or any other country.”

Lutz said GM engineers in Rüsselsheim, Germany, will lead development of the next generation Epsilon platform, responsible for the basic engineering of the architecture and shared components.

Each affected region and brand provides vehicle parameters to ensure the architecture has the capability to be differentiated for individual brand and regional needs. Jon Lauckner, formerly the vehicle line executive for the new Opel/Vauxhall Astra, is global vehicle line executive in charge of the Epsilon II, as it is being called internally.

In addition to Forster, human resources, finance, sales/marketing and aftersales, information systems, legal, communications, the Fiat/GM Powertrain and other Fiat related activities will report to Henderson.

New business development for Central and Eastern Europe will also be directed by Henderson.