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Gary L. Cowger (President, General Motors North America):
"Leading a Manufacturing Enterprise in the Real World"

Monday, March 29, 2004 from 4:00–5:00 PM EST

Tang Center (E51-345)

General Motors
MIT Leaders for Manufacturing Program
MIT Media Laboratory

General Motors' Gary L. Cowger will discuss the challenges and opportunities that face GM in today's hypercompetitive global automotive industry, the role that manufacturing plays in a company like GM, and what it's like and what it takes to be a senior leader in today's world. Cowger will also answer questions about leadership, manufacturing, global industry, and, of course, cars and trucks.

Gary L. Cowger has served as president of General Motors North America since November, 2001. In this role, Cowger has responsibility for all GM operations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. In addition, he functions as the global process leader for manufacturing. He is a member of the Automotive Strategy Board and chairman of the North America Strategy Board. Previously, Cowger was group vice president in charge of GM manufacturing and labor relations; group vice president—labor relations; and chairman and managing director of Adam Opel AG. He was vice president, manufacturing (General Motors Europe), and was placed in charge of the overall coordination of all Opel/Vauxhall vehicle manufacturing, assembly, and component operations in Europe, which comprise 14 plants in ten countries. Prior to that, he was president and managing director of General Motors de Mexico.

Cowger began his General Motors career in 1965 at the GM Assembly Division plant in Kansas City, Kansas, as a co-op student for General Motors Institute (GMI), now known as Kettering University. He held a variety of engineering and manufacturing assignments of increasing responsibility at the plant. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a GM Sloan Fellow and, upon his return, was appointed superintendent of the Kansas City plant. He transferred to Oldsmobile Division in Lansing, Michigan as a general superintendent at the Lansing Car Assembly plant. He then transferred to the St. Louis, Missouri assembly plant as production manager. He was appointed the first manager of the Wentzville, Missouri assembly plant, where he was responsible for the building, staffing, and start-up of the new facility. After a successful start-up, Cowger was named complex manager of the Lordstown, Ohio assembly and stamping facilities. Cowger was then appointed manufacturing manager of Cadillac Motor Division. He was instrumental in helping Cadillac win the coveted Malcolm Baldrige Award for quality. In 1990, he became executive director of advanced manufacturing engineering for the Advanced Engineering Staff at the GM Technical Center in Warren, Michigan. In 1993, he was appointed executive in charge of the North American Operations Manufacturing Center. The following year, he was named to the GM de Mexico position.

Cowger was born in Kansas City, Kansas. He earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from GMI in 1970 and an MS in management from MIT in 1978. He received an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Lindenwood University in 2002. He is a board member of Saturn Corporation, GM of Canada, and GMAC, and has served on the boards of Saab; Adam Opel, AG; and NUMMI. He is currently on the board of trustees at Kettering University, the governing board of Leaders for Manufacturing at MIT, and the board of the College for Creative Studies. In addition, he serves on the board of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Focus: HOPE, and the United Negro College Fund.

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