Former GM President Gary Cowger Dies At 759
Gary Cowger, former president of GM who spent over four decades at the company, died last Friday, February 17th, 2023 after a two-year struggle against cancer. Born on April 18th, 1947, he was 75 years old at the time of his death.
Interest in automobiles led Cowger to become a co-op student at General Motors Institute (GMI) in Kansas City during 1967. His time there saw him carrying out tasks such as hanging doors or molding seats at the original Fairfax assembly plant, which was replaced by the current GM Fairfax plant in 1987.
Gary Cowger earned his bachelor’s degree from GMI in 1970, followed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology management degree in 1978. This educational background together with his energy and knowledge provided a springboard in managerial positions at several of The General’s plants between 1979 and 1987.
During his stint as a plant manager at the Lordstown, Ohio facility, Gary Cowger made his mark through successful negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW). His willingness to communicate on a regular basis reduced friction between the union and management.
1994 saw Gary Cowger take over as the president of GM’s branch in Mexico. Remaining there for four years, he proved himself by doubling the market share of GM vehicles, making it the premier automaker in Mexico. Sent to Germany in 1998, he was recalled almost immediately to broker an agreement following a major strike in Flint, Michigan. At this point, he picked one of his executive assistants, future GM CEO Mary Barra, to serve as communications lead.
Gary Cowger mentored Barra through about ten years of his later career at GM. He became president of GM North America in 2001 and continued in that post until 2005. In that year, with GM struggling financially and its shares trading at their lowest point in the previous 10 years, CEO Rick Wagoner relieved Cowger of his position as president and assumed direct control of GM North America himself.
Wagoner reassigned Gary Cowger to his area of proven expertise, chief of global labor relations and manufacturing. Before his retirement from GM in 2009, the same year Wagoner resigned, Cowger helped pave the way for the “new GM” that emerged after The General’s 2009 bankruptcy by negotiating important deals with the UAW.
After Gary Cowger passed away at his home in Plano, Texas, Mary Barra issued a statement expressing her sadness at his passing, describing him as a mentor and an influential leader.
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He was one of several that really negotiated poor union contracts that contributed to the fal, of GM.
Wen the cars were not selling in the 90’s it was. Healer to keep building them than shut down the plant. It resulted in major incentives and selling of cars to lease companies at a loss.
I’m undecided on which trumps the other. Your pitiful spelling or your ignorance!
When the Truth hurts attack the messenger.
The future will be difficult with higher prices, higher interest rates, EV products as well increased non union plants and imports.
They all are going to have to work together or end up like Ford with 8,000 laid off and more to come.
Wow, spoken like a true GCFO! I have to commend you for having the courage to uphold whatever honor you think gm has. Unfortunately no matter the thread you say the same thing. You can’t complete a paragraph without uttering the word union. To say other companies have an unfair advantage is ridiculous. You had electric cars on the road thirty years ago
You and your cohorts burned this once great company to the ground then received a clean sheet restart on our dime! If you want someone to blame gather your top level management into one of your boardrooms and look at the wall to wall mirror!
If you don’t like it go work at Ford…. well that is not going to happen. How about Hyundai….. oh that is right they have no union. Well Walmart is always hiring. Well at least they paid you the $12K bonus so GM may not be all that bad after all right now.
You do know they are in business to build cars and make money not create jobs as that is just a side effect.
R I P, Gary Cowger.
That photo with the Park Avenue is interesting, it has a date of May 6 1983 on the card and the car is a brand new C-body Electra Park Avenue, cars that weren’t officially introduced until spring 1984 as 1985 model year cars.
Very interesting, I know that GM wanted the C-body cars out for GM’s 75th anniversary in 1984 but the 4 speed auto with overdrive was having issues that delayed the launch.