3 GM purchasing chiefs, 3 buyers quit Believed going to Volkswagen


DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. confirmed yesterday th resignation of three top purchasing executives and three midlevel buyers, all confederates of Jose Ignacio Lopez de Arriortua, who resigned last week to become the No. 2 executive at Volkswagen A.G.

The six GM employees, who resigned Monday, "presumably went to Volkswagen, but we don't know for sure," said Antonette Simonetti, a GM spokeswoman. All six are Europeans who, like Mr. Lopez, had worked for GM in Europe. They had joined him in Detroit during the last year.

Ferdinand Piech, VW's chairman, is understood to be recruiting executives and has hired several from GM Europe.

Analysts said the departure of the executives probably did not worsen the loss felt by GM after the resignation of Mr. Lopez. In any case, they said, the executives probably would not have fit in with the style of the person who replaces the flamboyant Mr. Lopez.

Mr. Lopez had won praise for bringing cost efficiencies and strong profits to GM in Europe. Before resigning last week, he had set upon the same course for the company's North American operations, alienating many suppliers with his demands for lower prices.

The seven executives presumably possess sensitive competitive information about GM's future products and the prices GM pays for automotive materials and components. The information will be useful in trying to squeeze costs from VW's bloated system, analysts say, and in determining where VW might seek advantages in developing new vehicles.

GM identified the purchasing executives who left as Jose Manuel Gutierrez, who was in charge of buying the automaker's worldwide machinery and equipment; Francisco Javier Garcia, who bought electrical parts; and Hugo Van der Auwera, in charge of buying metal.

The three midlevel buyers were identified by GM as R. Piazza and J. Alvarez from GM Europe, and Andre Versteeg, who had worked for North American operations since transferring from Europe last May.

Because these men did not have long-standing relationships with GM's suppliers in the United States, many experts said, they were effective in demanding price concessions and better service.

They also were familiar with prices of parts from European suppliers, and used that knowledge in bargaining. Consequently, many automotive suppliers are expected to be pleased to see them leave, as they were to see Mr. Lopez go.

John F. Smith Jr., GM's chief executive, said yesterday he expected to name a replacement for Mr. Lopez by April 5, when GM's board has its regular monthly meeting in New York.

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