GM's Asian Operations Chief to Step Down

The man responsible for General Motors' (NYS: GM) surprising success in China has decided to step down.

GM announced Wednesday that Asian operations president Kevin Wale will retire, leaving the company on Oct. 31 after seven years at his post. Current GM global purchasing and supply chain VP Bob Socia will replace him in heading up the automaker's presence in the fast-growing region.

Wale led GM's surge to the top of China's swelling auto market, boosting annual sales in the nation from just more than 500,000 vehicles per year when he arrived in 2005 to 2.5 million last year. GM emerged as a leader among the major automakers during his tenure, expanding growth even as the company struggled through its bailout and restructuring following the 2008 recession.

The automaker's Asian success comes off as even more surprising given its lackluster results in other regions, as it posted declines in profit for last quarter in Europe and South America and lost market share in North America to rivals Toyota and Honda.

Socia has served as a GM executive across Latin American, Asian, and European divisions. The company named him executive vice president of joint venture Shanghai HM in 2007, giving Socia valuable experience with the Chinese market.

GM shares gained more than 1% on the news in early trading.

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