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GM won't hesitate to redo designs of underperforming cars: executive

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[January 14, 2014]  DETROIT (Reuters)  General Motors Co <GM.N> will not hesitate to delay or redo existing vehicles or those under development if they are underperforming or poorly received  as GM did with the next version of its Chevrolet Cruze small car, a top executive said on Monday.

"Once in a while, when we don't score on the timeline we should have scored on in terms of developing the car, we stop it. We stop design and development of car and look at why is the customer telling us it's good but not great," Mark Reuss, GM's incoming global product development chief, told reporters at the Detroit auto show.

GM took this unusual step last year when it offered a mildly restyled version of the Chevrolet Malibu in an effort to reverse the prior 18 months of disappointing sales since the mid-sized sedan's previous major redesign in early 2012.

Reuss has led the company's North American operations but this week will replace incoming Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra as head of global product development. He added there were "a couple of things that I think need some help," but declined to identify which vehicles he was discussing.

Reuss said the company still has plenty of room to cut waste and cost in its product development operations even after the progress it has already made.

"It's on the right course, but given more time you're going to keep making it better," he said.

There are also a lot of things GM can do to boost product rollouts in Europe given the problems the automaker has faced in that region, where it has lost money for 13 straight years including 2013, Reuss said.

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While GM's design team is "firing on all cylinders," he said the company needs to focus on launching vehicles strongly over the next year. In the United States alone, GM will introduce 32 new or refreshed vehicles over the next two years.

Two years ago, Barra talked about cutting $1 billion in engineering costs, and Reuss said while progress had been made in that area there were still plenty of opportunities to cut further.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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