Veteran General Motors executive Sergio Rocha becomes president and CEO of GM Korea on March 1.

Rocha takes over for interim President John Buttermore, vice president-manufacturing for GM International Operations, who has filled the post since Michael Arcamone’s resignation from the auto maker in January.

Rocha currently is president and managing director of GM Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, having held that position since 2009.

No stranger to Korea, news of Rocha’s appointment is being well-received by senior managers and staff, workers and union officials.

“He did a very good job in product development and was a very, very good soccer player as well,” a senior GM Korea product executive tells WardsAuto. “Both he and (former president and CEO) Mike Grimaldi played on the management team in matches with our workers.

“He is fondly remembered here and we surely welcome him back.”

Rocha was vice president-product planning and program management for the auto maker from 2006 to 2008, when GM Korea operated under its former name of GM Daewoo Auto and Technology.

While Rocha held that post, GM Daewoo launched the Captiva compact cross/utility vehicle, the Aveo sedan and the Epica midsize sedan. The auto maker also was in advanced stages of developing the Chevrolet Cruze, which made its global debut in Korea in 2008 as the Lacetti Premier.

News reports indicate Rocha will have his hands full placating union officials upon his return to Korea. They reportedly are extremely concerned that the auto maker may divert some production from Korea to General Motors’ struggling Adam Opel subsidiary in Germany.

Korean media also quote GM Korea union workers as saying they will fight to prevent any diversion of production from domestic plants.

While not denying such reports, GM Korea has issued a statement saying its Korean plants are fully engaged and that they are part of GM's global manufacturing network.

In Argentina, Rocha last October announced a $150 million expansion of GM’s Rosario plant to increase production capacity by 25% and add 600 jobs. The expansion program is to begin early this year.

A native of Brazil, Rocha began his career as a product engineer with GM do Brasil in 1979.

He held several key product-engineering posts there and in 1993 took a senior engineering position with the Opel International Technical Development Center in Russelsheim, Germany.

In 1996, Rocha headed up product-engineering and planning for the Rosario plant. He returned to GM do Brasil in 2002 as regional vehicle line executive with responsibility for small-car development for Latin America, Africa and the Middle East.

He began his 2-year stint with GM Daewoo in 2006, and took over as executive director-global program management in 2008 at GM headquarters in Detroit. He was named president and managing director of GM Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay the following year.

Rocha holds degrees in mechanical engineering and industrial engineering from Braz Cubas University in Sao Paulo.