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General Motors Co. is elevating global product chief Mark Reuss to the role of president, leveraging the GM veteran's product expertise as part of a wider restructuring designed to position the automaker for an electric and driverless future.

The son of a former GM president, Reuss has spent his entire career with GM. He now rises to the top of the automaker's senior leadership as president just five weeks after a GM spokesman told The Detroit News that the position would be eliminated. The shuffle comes at a time when the company is aggressively restructuring its workforce and manufacturing operations to cut costs and fund expensive electrification and autonomy ventures.

Reuss' acute understanding of product development likely will be crucial as GM re-positions its vehicle portfolio for the future, industry experts say. He's expected to intensify his focus on electrified vehicles in the coming years as GM pushes to release 20 new zero-emission vehicles by 2023.

"In the move to electrification and autonomy, the boundaries of what products need to be will change," said Stephanie Brinley, an automotive analyst for IHS Markit. "Reuss is in a good position to see what those changes need to be .... Taking the experience that exists there and listening to new inputs may be the difference between being very successful and medium success."

Reuss succeeds Dan Ammann a day after he officially left the position of president, the latest in a series of executive shuffles engineered by CEO Mary Barra. The moves are part of a larger restructuring effort that is expected to eliminate more than 8,000 white-collar employees and could culminate in the closing of five plants in North America by the end of the year.

Ammann replaced Kyle Vogt as CEO of GM Cruise LLC, the Detroit automaker's autonomous vehicle development arm. Ammann, still part of GM's senior leadership team, has been highly involved with Cruise since GM acquired the San Francisco-based startup for $1 billion in 2016.

When Ammann's move was announced in November, GM said it would shift his remaining responsibilities to Barra and CFO Dhivya Suryadevara. Barra assumed Ammann's responsibilities for GM's global regions and GM Financial while Suryadevar took over GM's corporate development team.

Reuss added Cadillac and global portfolio planning to his responsibilities in June 2018 at the same time Ammann intensified his focus on Cruise. Reuss keeps these responsibilities in his new role and assumes the company's quality organization.

In the fall, GM restructured its EV leadership by moving its longtime EV chief, Pamela Fletcher, into a new position as vice president of innovation, reporting directly to Barra.

Reuss' various roles with the company have spanned from vice president of engineering to president of Australia and New Zealand. He created and led the GM performance division in 2001, and has been global product chief since 2013.

"Mark’s global operational experience, deep product knowledge and strong leadership will serve us well as we continue to strengthen our current business, take advantage of growth opportunities and further define the future of personal mobility," Barra said in a statement. "Mark has played a critical role in leading the development of the company’s award-winning vehicles while transitioning his team to prepare for growing electrification and autonomous technologies."

nnaughton@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @NoraNaughton

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