Final the last members of the top-management
team linked to the Smith-Wagoner era at General Motors has decided to call it
quits. Vice Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Tom Stephens
has elected to retire April, GM has announced.
Stephens, whose career with GM
spanned 43 years, has been one of GM's
top executives since 2001 when he became group vice president of global
powertrain. In 2009, as the company plunged into bankruptcy, Stephens was put
in charge of GM's product development and managed to keep critical programs on
track as the company re-organized. He stepped aside as product chief in 201,
turning the job over to Mary Barra, who was tapped by GM chairman and chief
executive offer Dan Akerson for the sensitive post.
In his most recent role as CTO, Stephens led the company’s product
technology arm, working to identify and develop advanced technologies for
integration in future GM vehicles. He also focused on building closer
relationships with external and internal technology partners. A successor to
Stephens will be named later, GM officials said.
Stephens also embodied the professional
expertise and broad technical knowledge embedded in the old GM. With his detailed knowledge of what makers vehicles
go, Stephens also could address complicated technical issues in clear, lucid
terms, making them understandable for GM's top management and other
“Tom Stephens is an engineering icon
within our company and within our industry,” Akerson said. “We have all benefited greatly from his
passion, wisdom, and commitment to product excellence. His talent and
contributions to GM are deeply appreciated and his expertise will be missed.”
Key highlights of Stephens’ career include leading the development of the
first Cadillac Northstar engine, GM’s premier dual overhead cam performance
engine, which won numerous industry and engine awards. He also spearheaded the
creation of GM’s advanced propulsion technology strategy, which guided the
company’s development of a wide range of advanced engine technologies, hybrid
vehicles, and the Chevrolet Volt.
Stephens led the globalization of powertrain engineering, leveraging global
centers of expertise to speed engine development. He also championed the use of
computational tools and common parts in GM engineering and product development
processes to increase quality and efficiency.
Stephens' GM career began in 1969 as
an hourly employee at the Chevrolet Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., under
the University of Michigan Student Co-op Program. Stephens held several
engineering positions at Cadillac Motor Car Division and a series of
engineering leadership posts with the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac Division before
being chosen to lead the newly created GM Powertrain Division.
Stephens said he plans to continue to
serve on the board of directors of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition
of Science and Technology) Robotics Foundation and the board of trustees for
the Detroit Science Center. He is a member of the Engineering Advisory
Council for the University of Michigan School of Engineering and was elected to
the National Academy of Engineering in 2007 for his contributions to powertrain
engineering. By Joseph Szczesny