Highlights of the year’s major events affecting General Motors:

• Shanghai General Motors begins the year with the milestone introduction of the Chevrolet New Sail sedan in Shanghai. It is the first passenger car designed and engineered in China by a foreign joint venture, the auto maker says.

• Nick Reilly is appointed CEO of Adam Opel on Jan. 15, part of a larger management restructuring that collapses GM Europe into the German auto maker. Reilly assumes responsibility for Opel worldwide, as well as its U.K. sister, Vauxhall.

• GM reveals an all-new fullsize heavy-duty pickup truck with a revamped 6.6L Duramax diesel engine for the U.S. It heralds GM’s first heavy-duty truck chassis since 2001.

• Stephen Girsky is appointed GM vice chairman-corporate strategy and business development. The former Wall Street analyst who also provided consulting services to GM and the United Auto Workers union, retains his position as an “employee-director.”

• Saab Automobile is established Feb. 23 as Netherlands-based Spyker Cars. shells out $74 million in cash and $326 million in preferred shares to GM. Additional support is secured from European banking institutions. Saab will be dependent on GM for “near-term” product development, says CEO Jan Ake Jonsson.

• GM says it must wind down Hummer after a deal falls through to sell the luxury SUV division to China-based Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery.

Ford leapfrogs GM for the U.S. sales lead in February, according to Ward’s data – a feat it accomplished just three times in the last three decades.

• GM North America President Mark Reuss unveils a new corporate structure that eliminates division managers and splits sales and marketing duties at each brand between two people.

The sales executives will report to Reuss, while marketing leaders will answer to GM Vice President Susan Docherty. Steve Carlisle becomes U.S sales chief. Chris Preuss, formerly head of GM communications, replaces Walt Dorfstatter as OnStar’s president.

• Responding to protests from dealers and local communities, Congress pushes GM to rethink its pre-bankruptcy plan to downsize its dealer network. The auto maker says 660 dealers will be reinstated, while 440 others will be offered arbitration.

Special Report

2010 Year in Review

• En route to its sixth consecutive monthly sales gain, year over year, GM says its average per-vehicle incentive for March fell below the industry average for the first time ever. Historically, GM’s incentive spend has been the highest of any auto maker. “We no longer have that dubious honor,” says Susan Docherty, vice president-marketing.

• GM in April opens an advanced design studio in Seoul, South Korea, and tasks the unit with leading global mini- and small-car styling. GM global design chief Ed Welburn says the studio will draw inspiration from the stylish Gangnam area, which . Gangnam is considered the nation’s center for culture, arts, fashion and industry.

• GM marketing boss Susan Docherty is replaced on May 5 by Joel Ewanick, who is lured away from Nissan North America. Ewanick had been with Nissan only since March, having been recruited from Hyundai Motor America.

Effective June 1, Docherty becomes vice president of GM’s 90-market International Operational Sales, Marketing and After-sales unit, overseeing Latin America, Africa, Russia, the Middle East and the Asia/Pacific region.

• The 1 millionth GM Hydra-Matic 6-speed transmission is built in May at GM Daewoo Auto & Technology’s plant in Boryeong, Korea.

• Opel extracts €265 million ($366 million) in wage concessions from its European workers, in exchange for job-saving production commitments. But the deal does not save Opel’s plant in Antwerp, Belgium, which is slated to close by year’s end.

• Retiring Vice Chairman Bob Lutz bids farewell to GM in May by leaving the auto maker’s employees with one final piece of advice – try to be a pain in the neck. “If you see dumb stuff happening, fight it,” says Lutz, who is credited with reviving the auto maker’s product line. “It won’t make you popular in the short-term, but I did it for my whole career and it worked for me.”

• Opel, in June, withdraws all requests for state aid from governments in Europe, a week after a plea was rejected by Germany’s government.

• GM’s OnStar telematics division breaks the 20,000-subscriber-mark in China.

• GM is red-faced after an internal memo admonishing use of the “Chevy” nickname to denote the Chevrolet brand becomes public. “We love Chevy,” the auto maker says in a statement. “In no way are we discouraging customers or fans from using the name.”

• GM announces an 8-year, 100,000-mile warranty for the lithium-ion battery in its ’11 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicle. The breakthrough car, set for production at GM’s plant in Hamtramck, MI, is set to sell for $41,000, including a $720 destination charge. The vehicle also qualifies for a $7,500 federal tax credit.

• GM breaks ground on its new GM China Advanced Technology Center, which will house four key research and development organizations and incorporate nine research laboratories and 62 testing labs.

• China’s Chery Automobile says it is unaware of an alleged plot that would have seen it benefit from stolen GM technology. Two Detroit-area residents, one of whom had been employed by GM, are charged in a 7-count indictment accusing them of trying to use stolen information to establish a hybrid-vehicle joint venture with Chery.

• GM bids farewell in July to the Chevrolet Cobalt C-car after five years and nearly 1 million sales. Assembled in Lordstown, OH, it yields to the all-new Chevy Cruze.

• Indiana-based Bright Automotive announces General Motors Ventures is investing $5 million in the EV maker. Its proposed plug-in hybrid-electric commercial van, dubbed IDEA, is expected to launch in 2013 or 2014 with a GM-sourced 4-cyl. engine and, possibly, wearing a badge from partner GM’s brand portfolio.

• GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre announces Aug. 12 he is leaving the company at year’s end, naming board member Dan Akerson as his successor. Whitacre, a retired telecommunications executive, was installed at GM by President Obama to guide the auto maker through its post-bankruptcy restructuring.

Whitacre’s announcement comes as the auto maker reveals second-quarter earnings of $1.3 billion, compared with like-2009’s loss of $12.9 billion. GM earned $865 million in the first quarter of 2010.

• GM files a regulatory notice Aug. 18 announcing its intention to begin publicly selling shares of the reorganized company, a first step towards unwinding the U.S. government’s 60.8% stake.

The auto maker says certain current individual shareholders will sell common stock, while the company will issue mandatory convertible junior preferred stock and use the proceeds for general corporate purposes.

GM says market conditions and other factors will affect the amount of securities to be offered. No price range is set.

• GM’s Buick and Cadillac marques are Canada’s fastest-growing brands in August, with sales up 130.3% and 167.2%, respectively, vs. year-ago.

• Jim Campbell, head of Chevrolet marketing, is replaced by Chris Perry, who jumps ship from Hyundai Motor America.

• OnStar launches a marketing campaign highlighting an expanded menu of features that includes new hardware, the ninth generation since the service debuted in 1996.

• A $483 million outlay at GM’s Spring Hill, TN, powertrain facility reflects an emerging strategy to leverage efficient 4-cyl. engines against a backdrop of stricter fuel-economy requirements. It also caps $890 million in investments to benefit powertrain plants in Tonawanda, NY; St. Catherines, ON, Canada; Defiance, OH; Bedford, IN; and Bay City, MI. Programs range from 6-speed transmissions to an updated small-block V-8.

• GM launches a battery-electric demonstration fleet to test smart-grid technology. Three electrified Opel Meriva small monocabs are put into service in September – one at a German university and two more at a power provider. Parallel testing is set for a fleet of battery-electric Chevrolet Cruze/Daewoo Lacetti Premiere sedans in South Korea.

emayne@wardsauto.com