DETROIT—Automotive public relations veteran Steve Harris is stepping down as vice president of communications at General Motors. He will retire January 1. Tom Kowaleski, currently vice president of GM North America communications, will take over as the company’s senior corporate communications executive.
According to GM chairman and chief executive Rick Wagoner, “Steve Harris has been a respected advisor to countless executives and senior leaders in the automotive industry over nearly four decades. I’ve greatly valued his judgment and insights. Steve has set a new standard for GM communications, and he deserves a lot of credit for improving our company’s image around the world.”
Harris, who has been head of corporate communications at Chrysler Corporation prior to its acquisition of Daimler-Benz, is well respected by the automotive media and known for creative product publicity programming as well as solid corporate reputation counsel. He took over the GM communications department at a time when the company’s image had slipped, and created a global communications team, overhauling the internal communications department and fostering more open and responsive relations with the automotive and business media.
Harris began his career at GM in 1967, and rose to become western regional manager for the Chevrolet division before joining American Motors as director of product PR. He held increasingly senior positions at Chrysler before rejoining GM in February of 1999.
Kowaleski has 24 years of automotive PR experience, having worked in the U.S. and Europe with GM, DaimlerChrysler and American Motors. He joined GM as executive director of product communications in March 1999, having previously worked with Harris at DaimlerChrysler, where he was director of communications strategy.
In his new role, Kowaleski will become a member of GM’s automotive strategy board and will direct all of the company’s corporate, product, brand and internal communications efforts around the world.