General Motors Co., which sells more vehicles in China than in any other country, is replacing its president in the country after a year.
Matthew Tsien, 53, a GM vice president, will take over from Bob Socia, 59, when he retires on Jan. 1, the Detroit-based company said in a statement today. Unlike Socia, Tsien will report directly to Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson instead of China Chairman Tim Lee.
Though Socia only became president of the China operations in October 2012, GM said the change was planned.
“When Bob was appointed president of our largest market, our plan was for him to help prepare his successor,” Akerson said in the statement. “Matt is now ready to step into the role and we wish Bob the best in his retirement.”
Tsien will be helming GM’s operations in China as the automaker prepares to invest $11 billion through 2016. The company is on track to sell 3 million vehicles this year and plans to step up promotions of its Chevrolet and Cadillac brands as it battles to fend off competition from Volkswagen AG for the top foreign automaker spot in the country.
While GM delivered more vehicles in China than any other foreign automaker during 2012, under Socia, the U.S. carmaker was outsold by Volkswagen in three of the past four quarters, according to company sales data compiled by Bloomberg.
GM reorganized its overseas businesses in August to separate China, naming Lee chairman of operations in the world’s largest car market and putting former Volvo Cars CEO Stefan Jacoby in control of more than 100 countries and territories. The international operations unit under Jacoby will shift its headquarters to Singapore from Shanghai in the second quarter of next year, the company said this month.
With the latest changes, both Lee and Tsien will report to Akerson.
“As Chairman of GM China, Tim has strategic oversight of GM in our largest market,” the company said in a statement. “He helps integrate our China strategy into GM’s overall global strategic plans. He will work closely with Matt, who will manage the day-to-day operations.”
Tsien is currently a vice president at GM China, overseeing product planning and his past roles included leading the Chinese joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling as executive vice president from 2009 to 2012, according to the statement. He has helped negotiate the early partnerships with SAIC Motor Corp., including passenger-vehicle venture Shanghai GM and the Pan Asia Technical Automotive Center, the company said.
At the Shanghai auto show in April, GM unveiled plans to spend $11 billion through 2016 on expanding in China. The company estimates the four new assembly plants will, when completed, boost annual capacity to 5 million vehicles -- double the number of cars it sold in the U.S. last year.