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8 October 2014

All news

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Kiwi in the driving seat at GM

Kiwi in the driving seat at GM

A Kiwi businessman is spearheading the turnaround at American automobile giant General Motors, which is trying to overcome financial problems to become the "world’s most valued car company".

Former New Zealand investment banker Dan Ammann took over the role of president of GM in January, at the same time Mary Barra became the company’s first woman chief executive.

Since becoming president, Ammann has already had to deal with a recall crisis and a diving stock price. However, GM – which was placed in bankruptcy for 40 days in 2009 – hopes to get back on track financially and in fact begin turning a profit in Europe for the first time in a decade.

GM has recalled 29 million vehicles this year, more than half of them because of potentially defective ignition switches which were believed to have caused 13 deaths.

The US Justice Department, auto safety regulators and US Congress have all started investigating it over its failure to detect the faulty ignition switch for over a decade.

The stock price has dropped from US$40 ($51) at the start of the year to US$33.75 as of today, although it is still much higher than when the company needed a US$50 billion bailout from the US government when it declared bankruptcy in 2009.

The year’s events all coincided with Ammann stepping up from role of chief financial officer to the driving seat.

The 42-year-old grew up on a farm in the Waikato and after schooling in Eureka and Hamilton studied management at Waikato University, graduating in 1994 with a Bachelor of Management Studies with first class honours.

He started his business career in New Zealand investment banking as an analyst and associate in the banking team at Credit Suisse First Boston in 1993.

After leaving New Zealand in 1997 for New York, Ammann continued working at Credit Suisse before shifting to Morgan Stanley where he scaled the corporate ladder, and was appointed a managing director of the bank in 2004.

In March 2010, he shifted from the bank to GM, where he was first appointed the giant carmaker’s treasurer, before taking over from fellow Kiwi Chris Liddell as CFO in April 2011.

His total remuneration package was in excess of US$5m last year, according to Forbes.

He is rising among the ranks of high-flying Kiwis overseas, which includes Greg Foran, the head of WalMart in the US with a remuneration package of about US5.9m.