Christine Krathwohl has left her role as the executive director for global logistics and supplier diversity at General Motors as the company made changes to its senior executive staff. Edgard Pezzo, who was previously GM South America’s vice-president of global purchasing and supply chain, has already taken over as GM’s new head of logistics.

The changes were revealed in an email message from vice-president of global purchasing and supply chain, Grace Lieblein, which was sent to suppliers last week and obtained by Automotive Logistics. The appointments are effective June 1st, however transitions have begun immediately.

Krathwohl was not available for comment, while a GM spokesperson repeated what is in Lieblein’s emails, which was that she had left GM “to pursue other opportunities”.

Industry sources described her leaving the role as very unexpected. Krathwohl had been a highly visible and active leader in the automotive logistics sector, including speaking at industry forums and university events. She took over the role in mid-2011 following three years at GM’s Opel/Vauxhall unit.

Pezzo had been in his post since 2010, where he was responsible for purchasing, programme management, supplier quality engineering, supply chain operations and logistics across GM’s South American network. Prior to that he was South America supply chain director. In the email, Lieblein wrote that Pezzo “brings a strong background to this role having had numerous assignments in logistics”. Pezzo will report to Lieblein.

Chris Naegeli, who is currently director of supplier quality, will succeed Pezzo. Naegeli has had numerous assignments up to now in Holden, GM’s Australian unit, and in Brazil. He will also report to Lieblein.

GM made several other appointments to the global purchasing and supply chain executive team. Kim Brycz, currently executive director of global purchasing and supply chain, has become executive director of global product purchasing. According to Liebelin, she will provide a single focus for both the supplier management teams (SMT) and customer care and aftersales (CCA), GM’s service parts division. Both SMT executive directors and the executive director of CCA will report to her.

Wade Sheffer has become the new executive director for CCA, replacing Dave Drouillard. Drouillard has been appointed the executive director for indirect materials, machinery and equipment; he also taken over Krathwohl’s role in heading up supplier diversity, GM’s programme for minority-owned suppliers in the US and Canada.

Another appointments was that of Tom McMillen as executive director of interior and safety. McMillen was most recently executive director for purchasing program management, but had previously been executive director for global logistics and later vice-president of global purchasing and supply chain for GM Europe.

One of the biggest jobs in automotive logistics
Edgard Pezzo is taking over one of the most important and powerful jobs in the global automotive logistics sector. He heads a department that controls the logistics budget for all of the inbound and outbound logistics services for GM’s majority-controlled operations worldwide, including a large amount of packaging, sub-assembly and sequencing services, and since 2012, all customs and duties.

Krathwohl had appeared both at ease with the responsibility as well as passionate about it. She said in numerous interviews and speeches that GM’s global growth made it an exciting time to work in logistics. In a feature interview for the January-March issue of Automotive Logistics this year, she pointed to the growing significance and increasing spend for logistics at the company. In 2012, for example, GM shipped more than 700,000 TEUs in full container loads, making it one of the world’s largest buyers of container shipping.

But Krathwohl believed that GM’s logistics managers and its logistics providers were gaining a louder voice in influencing how and where the carmaker sourced material or built vehicles.

“There is a huge opportunity for us to explore what we spend on logistics and why we spend it, and help decide what levers we might need to pull across the entire company to change it,” she said.

Krathwohl had also expressed a particular desire to improve relations between GM and logistics providers. “I want suppliers to know that this is not the traditional ‘beat-down’ that might have characterised GM’s approach in the past,” she said. “We want everyone to be successful. That ship or railroad can take any other product, so we need strong relationships.”

Along with his supply chain experience, the selection of Pezzo to take over GM’s global logistics could in part signify the importance of South America in GM’s global production and supply strategy. In 2012, the company built more than 1.1m vehicles in the region and sold around 1.05m vehicles. Brazil also represents an important node in GM’s intercontinental shipping and logistics network, with significant material cross-flows with Asia Pacific, Europe and North America.

Pezzo’s appointment also follows that of Grace Lieblein herself, who late last year moved to her current role having been formerly the president and managing director of GM do Brasil.