In a move aimed at reinvigorating General Motors' struggling automotive sales in Mexico, the company has appointed Grace Lieblein to lead the company's operations.
GM has tapped the 48-year-old Lieblein to become the president and managing director of GM de Mexico, the company announced, effective immediately. She will be based in Mexico.
Born in Los Angeles, Lieblein began her career at GM as a co-op student in the assembly division, but has soared to success in the upper ranks of the company.
The highest-ranking Hispanic woman at GM, Lieblein has earned dozens of awards and accolades. In 2007, she was named one of the Top 50 Hispanic Businesswomen in the United States by HispanicBusiness Magazine and was a finalist for the magazine's Women of the Year awards.
"We are very pleased to have an extraordinary leader like Grace taking on this key assignment," said Rick Wagoner, General Motors' chairman and CEO. "With her extensive engineering and product development background, combined with strong business acumen, Grace is the ideal person to help GM maintain and enhance its leadership position in Mexico."
"I am honored by this opportunity to be part of such a great organization as GM de Mexico," Lieblein said. "Mexico is a complex market and one of the most competitive around the world. Even with that, GM has been the market leader in Mexico for several years, and we plan to continue our strong performance. I look forward to being part of this high-performing team."
Although GM's new-auto sales have dropped dramatically in 2008 and its market share has declined slightly, GM still leads all automakers in new-car sales in Mexico, according to its quarterly report to stockholders.
"All challenges also bring opportunities," Lieblein said. "Our manufacturing complexes in Mexico have high quality and productivity, and therefore have good production cost performance, and we continue to improve through the use of our Global Manufacturing System. The products that we build in Mexico are in demand, both in and outside of Mexico. As the market changes, we will continue to evaluate our product portfolio, to ensure that we are matching supply with demand. The GM de Mexico team has a proven track record of having a 'can do' attitude in the face of adversity that will benefit us during this difficult time."
Lieblein previously served as GM's global vehicle chief engineer for front-wheel drive trucks. In her new post, she succeeds Kevin Williams, who recently became GM North America's vice president and general manager of GM Services & Parts Operations.
At GM, Lieblein played a pivotal role in the campaign to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient sport utility vehicles -- a dramatic turn from the gas guzzlers that GM had become associated with.
She led a team of engineers that created the 2008 Buick Enclave, marketed as the brand's first luxury crossover vehicle, which received huge publicity last year thanks to Tiger Woods' endorsement in television commercials.
Ms. Lieblein's roots at GM run deep. Her father, Rolando Larrinua, was an hourly employee at GM's Los Angeles plant. After starting her career at GM as a student, she earned an engineering degree from General Motors Institute, now Kettering University. She successfully climbed the corporate ladder and is the first woman to lead the Mexico operations.
In an interview with HispanicBusiness Magazine in 2007, Lieblein acknowledged the gloomy road ahead for GM and the automobile industry, but was confident GM could weather the storm.
"The financial and market share standpoints are always in the back of your mind, and that adds pressure, but there's healthy pressure and unhealthy pressure. Our team knows it has to focus on making good products," she said in April 2007.
About Grace Lieblein:
-- Bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from Kettering University; master's degree in management from Michigan State University.
-- Led the development of the more fuel-efficient Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Saturn Outlook and Chevrolet Traverse.
-- Married, with one daughter.
-- Earned several awards, including HispanicBusiness Magazine Women of the Year finalist; Automotive News' Top 100 Women in the Auto Industry; and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Corporate Achievement Award.
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