Kevin Wale, GM China group president, speaks during a news conference in Shanghai September 24, 2009. General Motors does not expect a sharp slowdown in demand in China's auto market from potential changes in government policy, its China chief said on Thursday. (Photo : Reuters)
(Reuters) - Kevin Wale will retire on October 31 as president of General Motors China, GM said Wednesday. His replacement is Bob Socia, GM's vice president of global purchasing and supply chain.
Wale, a 37-year GM veteran, has headed the U.S. automaker's China operations since 2005. He is also chief country operations officer for India and ASEAN.
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During Wale's tenure, China overtook the United States as GM's and the world's biggest auto market. GM along with Volkswagen AG are the sales market leaders in China.
Socia, 58, also joined GM in 1975, and has held several key international positions, including executive vice president of the Shanghai GM joint venture. His appointment is effective Oct. 1.
"Bob has extensive experience leading global operations and global purchasing, and working directly with our joint venture partners," said Tim Lee, vice president of global manufacturing and president of international operations.
Socia will report to Lee.
Wale, 57, is retiring of his own accord, said GM spokeswoman Lori Arpin in Shanghai.
"He's been at GM almost 40 years and he's been in China almost seven years," Arpin said.
After working long hours and traveling frequently to help establish GM in China, Wale has said he "wants to eat, drink, sleep and play golf like normal people," according to Arpin.
During Wale's time in China, GM increased its sales to 2.5 million last year from 560,000 in 2005, Arpin said. Through August, GM's China sales were up 11 percent at 1.84 million vehicles.