It's not a done deal yet, but don't be surprised if some of GM's top international executives, including president Louis R. Hughes, are called back to Detroit.

With the tentacles of GM's global empire sprawling from China to Australia to South America to Eastern Europe, Detroit seems just as attractive strategically as Zurich, Switzerland, setting aside executives' quality-of-life preferences.

"It's still being studied," says GM spokesman Michael Meyerand. "More and more our international operations people are working quite closely with their North American counterparts and Delphi, so there's more strategic rationale for having them based here."

Mr. Hughes' rumored reassignment has been the subject of continued speculation in the German and automotive press, fueled by prolonged grumbling from Opel officials and German union leaders. They see Mr. Hughes as overextended by GM's aggressive expansion into Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, and blame him for Opel's shrinking profits and stagnant market share. GM Chairman Jack Smith remains committed to Mr. Hughes.

Reports of tension between Mr. Hughes and Opel Managing Director David Herman have circulated for nearly a year, but both men still hold their positions. Mr. Hughes strongly advocated moving GM's international operations to Zurich in 1992 on the grounds that it brought Opel closer to emerging markets. o