June 12, 2017 / 12:39 PM / a month ago

Chevy to Chery: GM veteran joins Chinese rival as design chief

BEIJING, June 12 (Reuters) - A General Motors Co veteran is joining Chery Automobile Co as design chief, the latest foreign executive to sign on with a Chinese carmaker as local players become more competitive and gain share in their home market, the world's largest.

Steve Eum, who left a GM joint venture in China last year as design director, will join Chery on July 3, according to an email sent to Chery employees on Monday and seen by Reuters.

"My mandate at Chery is to help take Chery design to the next level of global sophistication," Eum told Reuters by phone after his appointment was announced internally.

Eum will replace James Hope, who will continue to work for Chery, according to two people familiar with the situation. Hope could not immediately be reached for comment by email.

A Chery spokeswoman did not have an immediate comment.

Eum's appointment comes as Chinese auto brands such as Chery, Geely, and Great Wall Motor Co Ltd improve engineering and design and cut into the market share lead still held by foreign brands in China.

A 50-year-old Korean-American, Eum was an assistant chief designer at GM's advanced design studio in southern California from 2000 to 2012 before moving to China as design chief for SAIC-GM-Wuling Auto (SGMW), the GM joint venture with SAIC Motor in southern China that sells entry-level cars.

At SGMW, Eum was responsible, among other things, for making the joint venture's Baojun cars, launched in 2011, sleeker.

Eum, who has also worked for Ford Motor Co and Hyundai Motor Co, will report to Ray Bierzynski, a Chery vice president and GM veteran who also worked at SGMW before joining Chery in 2015.

Domestic automakers have made several prominent hires of foreign industry veterans, such as Pierre Leclercq, a former BMW designer, who became Great Wall Motors’ vice president of design in 2013. (Reporting By Norihiko Shirouzu. Additional reporting by Jake Spring in Beijing; Editing by Tony Munroe and Mark Potter)

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