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Bob Socia, the president of the Chinese operations of General Motors Company (GM - Analyst Report), is set to retire on Jan 1, 2014. The 59-year old, who has been part of General Motors since 1975, became president of GM China in Oct 2012. Apart from China, he has worked in North America, Brazil, Europe and South Africa for the company.

Socia will be replaced by Matthew (Matt) Tsien, who is currently the vice president of Planning and Program Management for GM China and GM Consolidated International Operations and Strategic Alliances for China. He will also be part of the GM Executive Operations Committee. Tsien will report directly to General Motors CEO Dan Akerson, unlike Socia, who reported to China Chairman Tim Lee.

According to General Motors, Tsien is well versed with the Chinese automotive market and has also been preparing under Socia for his succession. Moreover, he has strong relations with the company’s partners and joint ventures in the country. This should help make the transition smooth.

53-year old Tsien joined General Motors in 2001 as the executive director of vehicle systems for GM North America Product Development. He later served as the executive director of Global Technology Engineering and executive vice president of SAIC-GM-Wuling before reaching his current position in Jan 2012.

China is the largest market for General Motors. The company and its subsidiaries expect sales in the country to cross 3 million units this year. This will be a record high for General Motors.

General Motors is aiming to boost the annual production capacity in China to 5 million vehicles and triple its exports from Chinese plants by 2015. In April, the company revealed plans to build four plants in the country to boost capacity. General Motors and its joint venture partners in China plan to invest $11 billion in the country by 2016 and launch about 17 new and upgraded car models as part of their major expansion program.

General Motors currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Better-ranked major automobile stocks worth considering are Ford Motor Co. (F - Analyst Report), Daimler AG (DDAIF) and Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (HMC - Analyst Report). While Ford is a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) stock, Daimler and Honda hold a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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