updated 12/7/2005 7:31:48 AM ET 2005-12-07T12:31:48

General Motors Corp., which has shed a torrent of red ink this year amid increasing health care costs and falling U.S. market share, said Tuesday it’s appointing a longtime GM executive as vice chairman and chief financial officer.

Frederick “Fritz” Henderson, 47, will become vice chairman and CFO on Jan. 1. Henderson is currently chairman of GM Europe, where he has been overseeing a major restructuring. He was president of GM Asia Pacific from 2002 to 2004 and president of GM Latin America, Africa and the Mideast from 2000 to 2002.

Henderson replaces John Devine, 61, who joined GM in 2000 after retiring from Ford Motor Co. Devine has agreed to remain beyond his five-year contract, which expires this month, as a vice chairman, GM said. Devine will assist Henderson for four months and then advise GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner on GM’s North American turnaround plan.

GM’s board approved the moves during a meeting Tuesday in Detroit, the company said in a statement. The changes come at a difficult time for the world’s largest automaker, which lost more than $3 billion in the first nine months of this year and recently announced a plan to cut 30,000 jobs and close 12 facilities by 2008.

GM spokesman Tom Kowaleski said the management change wasn’t related to a series of financial problems at the automaker. GM said last month that it would restate earnings for 2001 because an accounting error led it to overstate profit by up to $400 million. The Detroit-based automaker said an accounting review revealed it erroneously booked supplier credits in the year they were received rather than to future periods.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also has been investigating accounting practices at the company.

Wagoner praised Devine’s work and said Henderson is the right person to replace him.

“GM is fortunate to have a management team with deep bench strength,” Wagoner said in a news release.

Henderson has a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard University and a degree in finance from the University of Michigan. He began his career in the GM treasurer’s office in 1984. He has held various management positions at GM’s finance arm, GMAC, and GM’s former parts unit, which is now Delphi Corp. Delphi filed for bankruptcy protection in October, and GM could be forced to assume some of the company’s liabilities for retirees.

Henderson will be replaced in Europe by Carl-Peter Forster as GM group vice president and president of GM Europe.

GM also announced that Guy Briggs, GM’s group vice president of North American manufacturing and labor relations, is retiring. Tim Lee, 53, currently vice president of manufacturing in Europe, will replace the 67-year-old Briggs as North American vice president of manufacturing on Jan. 1. Briggs will stay on through April 1 to aid the transition.

GM named Diana Tremblay, 46, vice president of labor relations for GM in advance of difficult contract talks with the United Auto Workers in 2007. Tremblay is replacing John Buttermore, 54, who has been named vice president of powertrain and manufacturing operations. GM said Buttermore and Tremblay were key negotiators in GM’s recent agreement with the UAW to make workers and retirees pay more for their health care.

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