General Motors' European Opel Division CEO Resigns -- Update

By Eric Sylvers and Mike Colias Features Dow Jones Newswires

General Motors Co.'s European unit Opel appointed a new chief executive as Peugeot gets set to complete its more than $2 billion acquisition of the perennially money-losing car maker.

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Michael Lohscheller, who had been Opel's chief financial officer for the past five years, has taken over as the German company's CEO, Opel said Monday. He replaces Karl-Thomas Neumann, who called his decision to leave Opel a "personal decision," without giving further details.

Peugeot earlier this year agreed to buy Opel, betting it can turn around a company that hasn't posted a profit in almost two decades. The acquisition, which could close as early as the end of July, will make Peugeot Europe's No. 2 car maker behind Volkswagen AG. Revenue at Peugeot, officially known as Groupe PSA, will jump by a third.

It wasn't immediately clear what role Peugeot CEO Carlos Tavares played in the change at Opel. A Peugeot spokesman declined to comment on the relationship between Messrs. Tavares and Neumann. Mr. Neumann couldn't be reached through an Opel spokesman.

"I know some of you are disappointed, but I hope you can understand my decision," Mr. Neumann wrote on Twitter. He said he would take some time before deciding his next move.

Mr. Tavares had been expected to make some changes among Opel's top managers, though many analysts expected that significant changes were likely to come only once Peugeot had control of Opel.

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GM installed Mr. Neumann in early 2013 after a turbulent period of restructuring and executive turnover at Opel. The former CEO of German parts maker Continental AG put in place a 10-year plan that included a $5 billion commitment from GM for investment in new vehicles.

Mr. Neumann, an avid marathon runner, had some success in reviving the beleaguered brand. He hired a new marketing chief from the cosmetics industry who oversaw edgy advertising campaigns that emphasized stylish designs and distinctive features. The vehicles improved and garnered critical praise too, as Opel gained market share in key categories like compact cars and crossover SUVs.

Still, Mr. Neumann was unable to deliver on his primary goal of ending a long run of losses in Europe. GM said it had been on track to break even on the continent in 2016 before the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union created currency-exchange headwinds. GM reported a loss of $257 million in Europe last year, adding to the nearly $20 billion in red ink it has spilled there over the last two decades.

Nick Kostov contributed to this article

Write to Eric Sylvers at eric.sylvers@wsj.com and Mike Colias at Mike.Colias@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 12, 2017 12:21 ET (16:21 GMT)