DETROIT—General Motors has appointed veteran manufacturing executive Tony Francavilla as its global quality chief.
Francavilla, 58, replaces the departed Grace Lieblein, who retired at the end of 2015 after working in the position for about a year. Like Lieblein, he will report to GM CEO Mary Barra.
GM has tasked Francavilla with helping to extend the automaker's recent run of improving vehicle-quality metrics, and help provide “the highest-quality vehicles as a foundation for its customers' experience,” GM said in a statement.
“Tony's diverse technical expertise and global leadership experience position him well to further accelerate GM's progress in every aspect of vehicle quality,” Barra said in a statement.
A GM lifer, Francavilla has served mainly in manufacturing-related posts during his 37-year career. He was most recently executive director of global supplier quality.
Before that, Francavilla was plant manager at the Lansing, Mich., assembly plant that produces the Cadillac ATS and CTS sedans. He also led manufacturing operations at another Lansing plant that makes GM's large crossovers, the Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia and Chevrolet Traverse; and at its Flint, Mich., plant that assembles full-size pickups, GM said.
GM's quality ratings have been rising in recent years. In February, it paced the industry with eight vehicle segment winners in J.D. Power's 2016 U.S. Vehicle Dependability Study. It also has fared well in recent years in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Survey, which measures quality problems that pop up within the first 90 days of ownership.
Francavilla's new position is also a key post for an automaker in its third year under federal oversight since its deadly ignition-switch defect surfaced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last month extended its oversight of GM's safety practices for another year as part of a sweeping consent order signed in 2014, when the company issued a broad recall of cars for faulty ignition switches now linked to at least 124 deaths.
Francavilla spent time at GM plants overseas, too, including a plant-manager stint at GM's Ellesmere Port in the U.K., and as managing director of GM Poland. He has a bachelor's in engineering from McGill University in Montreal and an MBA from Niagara University in New York.
A native of Canada, Francavilla began his career with GM in 1979 as a co-op student at GM Canada in St. Catharines.