Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chrysler names new CEO for GEM unit

Bruce Coventry, shown, will replace Larry Oswald, who is retiring after this month.

Chrysler LLC has named Bruce Coventry CEO of its electric-vehicle subsidiary Global Electric Motor Cars LLC, or GEM. Coventry will replace Larry Oswald, 63, who is retiring after this month.

GEM, a Chrysler subsidiary in Fargo, N.D., makes low-speed, neighborhood electric vehicles, which have a top speed of 25 mph and are powered by a lead acid battery.

Coventry, 55, was vice president of Chrysler's Global Engine Manufacturing Alliance joint venture. He will continue as a nonexecutive chairman.

Chrysler, Hyundai and Mitsubishi Motors formed the joint venture, which develops four-cylinder engines at a plant in Dundee, Mich.

Chrysler's GEM vehicles are powered by a lead acid battery that takes six to eight hours to charge. Federal law permits them to travel on any road with a speed limit as high as 35 mph. They do not have airbags and do not have to be crash tested.

Unlike auto sales at Chrysler's three brands, GEM sales have been growing, by about 15 percent annually for the past five years. Sales have averaged 4,000 vehicles a year, GEM has said. Since it made its first vehicle in 1998, GEM has sold about 37,000 units.

This year, GEM President Rick Kasper told Automotive News that the company is profitable. GEM sells its vehicles through about 150 dealerships nationwide, about 125 of which are Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep stores.

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