(FILES) Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO o
Stan Honda  /  AFP - Getty Images
U.S. auto giant General Motors said Monday its Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will take over daily responsibility of the firm’s struggling North American division.
updated 4/4/2005 12:40:07 PM ET 2005-04-04T16:40:07

General Motors Corp. chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner said Monday he’ll take over daily responsibility of the automaker’s struggling North American division, the second management realignment at the world’s largest automaker in about a month.

GM North America chairman Bob Lutz and GMNA President Gary Cowger will relinquish those roles and focus full-time on global product development and global manufacturing and labor, respectively, the company said.

GM recently slashed its earnings outlook for 2005, citing slumping North American sales of its sport utility vehicles and trucks, along with weaker-than-expected business in the car line.

“Given the challenges we face in North America, it makes sense for me to assume control of GM North America’s day-to-day operations and shorten the lines of communication and decision-making,” Wagoner said in a statement.

“I look forward to working closely with an energized, aggressive GMNA team ... to move faster on the path toward re-establishing profitability in GM’s largest regional business unit.”

Lutz also serves as GM’s vice chairman and Cowger as a group vice president. Wagoner said they are two of GM’s most experienced executives and will help the company enhance its global position.

On March 1, GM announced that three of its top North American executives — sales chief John Smith, engineering chief Jim Queen and design chief Ed Welburn — would take over new positions with global responsibility. All three report to Lutz, who has been tasked in recent years with improving global efficiency.

Analysts have said the change to a more global focus should help GM compete with foreign automakers like Toyota Motor Corp., which are more streamlined in integrating their products worldwide.

Wagoner, 52, is no stranger to day-to-day operations. He was president of GMNA from 1994 until 1998 and served as GM’s chief financial officer for two years before that.

GM announced last week that its U.S. sales fell 1.3 percent in March and now are down 3.8 percent for the year. While GM was hoping for a stronger month, the numbers were far better than February, when GM announced a 12.7 percent decline and cut its production schedule.

GM truck sales were up 3.8 percent in March, but car sales fell 8 percent and are down 8 percent for the year despite new entries such as the Pontiac G6, the Buick LaCrosse and the Chevrolet Cobalt.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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