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Longtime GM executive Bob Stempel, who rose to the rank of GM CEO in the Nineties, died Monday at his home in Florida at the age of 77.
Most of the obituaries note that Stempel was ousted as GM’s chairman following a stormy two-year tenure that ended in 1992. The boardroom coup that ended in his removal focused mostly on financial and restructuring issues. Not all of them mention that Stempel, a native of Trenton, New Jersey, was a total car enthusiast and an outstanding engineer. He was part of the team that designed the first Oldsmobile Toronado, developed the workable catalytic converter, brought Saturn into existence, and enthusiastically backed the EV1 electric car, which never made it to widescale production. Stempel also had the poor fortune to follow Roger Smith, whose market-shedding tenure was lampooned by filmmaker Michael Moore, into the chairman’s seat. The above GM photo shows Stempel (left) at the first Saturn’s rollout in 1990, flanked by (from left) UAW president Owen Bieber, Smith and Saturn president Skip LeFauve.