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Kienle brings to Opel more than 30 years of global manufacturing experience (Photo: GM)

Opel said General Motors veteran Phil Kienle will succeed Peter Thom as head of manufacturing at the German GM brand March 1.

Kienle currently serves as head of manufacturing for GM International and GM China. Thom, the current Opel production head, will become quality vice president at GM in North America.

Kienle has worked for GM in Korea, Australia, Africa, Asia, Uzbekistan and China. He has more than 30 years of global leadership experience in all core manufacturing functions, GM said.

Jim DeLuca, who heads GM's global manufacturing, said Kienle's appointment comes at a critical time for Opel, as the company is engaged in what he called "Opel/Vauxhall’s most aggressive vehicle offensive in its history.” Vauxhall is Opel's UK brand.

Opel posted a 10.4 pc increase in unit sales in January to 80,000 vehicles. The rise, fueled by new models, outpaced the overall European market, which expanded 2.6 pc in January.

"Our excellent start to the year once again shows that our product offensive is appealing to the taste of our customers,” Opel's sales boss, Peter Christian Kuespert, said in a press statement. He cited a sharp 43 pc unit sales increase for the brand's new mid-sized Astra model and predicted that a "Sports Tourer" version of the Astra and a new Mokka X small SUV that will be unveiled at the Geneva auto show next month "will continue to drive sales during the course of the year.”