DaimlerChrysler Corp. countered its string of defections with a bit of a coup: luring the head of quality for General Motors Corp.

Thomas LaSorda, a contender to succeed Donald Hackworth as GM's head of North American manufacturing, jumps to DCC as senior vice president of powertrain manufacturing.

Mr. LaSorda, a Canadian who joined GM of Canada in 1977, replaces Carlos Lobo who becomes president and chief executive of New Venture Gear Inc., a DCC-GM joint venture that makes parts for four-wheel-drive systems. Mr. Lobo takes over from Fred Hubacker, who drops to vice president, chief administrative officer.

Meanwhile, the top quality position at DCC remains vacant with the loss of Cynthia Hess, vice president of corporate quality, who quit to become a partner in Heartland Industrial Group of Bloomfield Hills, MI, a private equity firm that invests in undervalued industrial companies. As head of small car platform engineering Ms. Hess led the design and development of the PT Cruiser, new Neon, Viper, Prowler and Avenger — the first woman to achieve a senior position in product development.

Over at GM, Debra J. Kelly-Ennis is named general manager of Oldsmobile Div. Ms. Kelly-Ennis, formerly brand manager for Chevrolet S-10 trucks, replaces Karen C. Francis (see Ward's Automotive Reports — May 1, '00, p.1). GM also revealed it has lured former Renault SA designer Anne Asensio to head up GM's brand studios designers in Warren, MI. Ms. Asensio is credited with designing the concept car that led to Renault's hot Megane Scenic microvan.

Last week's spirited game of musical chairs also saw Kurt Kavajecz leave Ford Motor Co. to take over as plant manager at DC's Belvidere, IL, assembly plant.

And Mercedes-Benz USA Inc. appointed Burkhard Osthaus to general manager of product management. He will relocate from Stuttgart, Germany. Joining him is fellow German Klaus Ulkann in a new position as vice president of client services overseeing the aftermarket.