Big Plans for a Small Car

New boss Bob Stempel aims to make GM's latest model a hit

The new chairman had been on the job for only a few hours. But when big, rangy Robert Stempel appeared at his first press conference as head of General Motors last week, he left no doubt about who was in charge. Stempel, 57, an engineer whose booming baritone and engaging manner offer a stark contrast to his diffident predecessor Roger Smith, immediately put into effect a top-level reorganization of the slumping giant. Removing a layer of executive management, he launched a campaign to put decision-making power into the hands of the automaker's eight divisions and dozens of subsidiaries.

Stempel's arrival at...