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GM names Opel strategy chief new Chevrolet Europe boss

Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of Adam Opel AG Thomas Sedran speaks during the start of the Opel Adam car production in Eisenach Ja
Deputy Chairman of the Management Board of Adam Opel AG Thomas Sedran speaks during the start of the Opel Adam car production in Eisenach Ja

By Christiaan Hetzner and Ben Klayman

FRANKFURT/WARREN, Michigan (Reuters) - General Motors Co has named Opel's strategy chief to run the European operations of GM's two global brands, Chevrolet and Cadillac.

GM hopes that bringing Thomas Sedran to Chevrolet, starting next month, will help boost sales of the U.S. brand while differentiating its European strategy from Opel's.

He succeeds Chevy Europe head Susan Docherty, who never managed to increase sales of GM's budget brand in Europe during her 18-month stint. She will be leaving GM in September.

GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson told reporters on Wednesday that the Detroit company needed a "fresh perspective" for the Chevy brand in Europe, including a reassessment of how Chevy and Opel fit together in terms of price, vehicle content and where the brands are sold.

"He understands the channel conflicts we've inevitably had between Opel and Chevrolet," Akerson said of Sedran.

"We've done a pretty good positioning between Opel and Chevrolet in Russia, but we haven't done it as well as I would have hoped in Western Europe, so we have to take a fresh look," he said at GM's technical center outside Detroit.

Akerson reiterated that GM stands behind the money-losing Opel unit. "We have a long journey to carry forward, but I would say that Opel is doing better. We've made a statement that we're not giving up on Opel."

GM, which almost sold Opel in 2009, has lost money in Europe for 13 consecutive years, but plans to return to break-even level by mid-decade.

Sedran, a former auto industry consultant for AlixPartners who joined Opel in April last year, served as interim CEO for the loss-making European brand from last July until the arrival of Karl-Thomas Neumann in March.

Sedran said Chevrolet had one of the youngest model ranges after launching 15 new or upgraded models in the past three years including the Trax subcompact SUV, while Cadillac expected to attract new customers with cars such as the sporty ATS, which competes against the BMW 3 Series .

Chevy, which imports cars to Europe almost exclusively from GM's South Korean unit, has lost ground to low-cost rivals Hyundai Motor Co <005380.KS> and Kia Motors Corp <000270.KS>.

While Chevrolet's market share in Europe dropped to 1.1 percent during the first five months of this year from the average 1.3 percent when Docherty took over at the start of 2012, Korean budget brands Hyundai and Kia grew theirs by roughly half a percentage point each, to 3.5 percent and 2.7 percent, respectively.

Cadillac sold fewer than 500 cars in western and central Europe last year out of the roughly 196,000 Cadillacs sold worldwide.

Separately, Opel said Tina Mueller, who recently ran Henkel's Beauty Care cosmetics division for Western Europe, will become chief marketing officer from August 1.

(Reporting by Christiaan Hetzner in Frankfurt and Ben Klayman in Warren, Mich.; editing by Ruth Pitchford and Matthew Lewis)

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