General Motors Corp. purchasing chief Bo Andersson, who created a global procurement organization while attempting to rebuild tattered relations with suppliers, has left the auto maker to pursue other career opportunities.

A replacement for Andersson will be announced soon.

If the choice is made internally, GM management may look to one of Andersson’s three regional vice presidents: Tom McMillen (based in Europe), Jim Bovenzi (Asia/Pacific) or Johnny Saldanha (Latin America, Africa and Middle East). Andersson assumed control of North American purchasing when he reorganized his staff two years ago.

Andersson also hired more than a year ago Esam Alnasery as a sourcing advisor. Alnasery had been vice president-global development for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Andersson, 53, submitted his resignation several days ago, but the announcement to his staff and employees came this morning. A GM purchasing spokesman says Andersson is not leaving under government pressure to thin the top management ranks, and that his new job will be announced soon, likely next week.

There is speculation Andersson may accept a post at Saab AB, the Swedish brand where he began his career. GM has been attempting to sell Saab as it winds its way through bankruptcy court. Various news outlets report it will be sold to Swedish sports car maker Koenigsegg Automotive AB.

Andersson, a native of Sweden, began his career as a manager with Saab in 1987, eventually working his way up to vice president of purchasing for Saab in 1990.

Other speculation among suppliers suggests Andersson could land at Magna International Inc., which is acquiring a 35% stake in Adam Opel GmbH, currently owned by GM.

Returning to Europe makes sense for Andersson, whose wife is Swedish and often spends summer months there with their two daughters.

Andersson transitioned from Saab to GM in 1993 as the executive director of the Worldwide Purchasing Electrical Group.

He became GM’s vice president of global purchasing and supply chain in 2001, taking the top purchasing job after the retirement of Harold Kutner, who replaced the infamous Jose Ignacio “Inaki” Lopez, who dealt ruthlessly with suppliers and created a culture of distrust that, some say privately, still exists to some extent today.

Suppliers say Andersson often was harsh but fair in his dealings, and they credit him for improving the chain of communication throughout his organization. Andersson often visited supplier plants and dispatched his lieutenants to fix problems that threatened component flow to GM vehicle assembly plants.

In interviews with Ward’s, Andersson emphasized the need to “take emotion out of the equation” in a supplier dispute. Instead, he would focus intently, even zealously, on computer-generated metrics that charted in great detail exactly how suppliers perform with regard to price, quality and delivery. “Bo knows data” became an industry catchphrase.

In 2007, Andersson was promoted to group vice president-global purchasing and supply chain. Today, that organization has more than 6,000 people in 47 countries and purchases direct materials from 3,300 suppliers globally. This year, GM expects to spend about $45 billion on direct materials for vehicle assembly.

GM President and CEO Fritz Henderson in a statement credits Andersson for his work.

“Bo has made tremendous contributions to the development of our global purchasing and supply chain strategy as we’ve globalized our product line portfolios and manufacturing footprint,” Henderson says.

Prior to his automotive career, Andersson served as an officer in the Swedish army after graduation from Sweden’s Military Academy. He also ran competitively as a young man and frequently used running analogies in speeches to suppliers to encourage hard work and a marathon mentality.

Planning Perspectives Inc. President and CEO John Henke Jr. says Andersson “is very well respected” within the supplier community.

“He’s very tough, but he knows his job. As a supplier he may not treat you the way you want to be treated, but you have to respect him because he knows what he’s talking about,” says Henke, who studies the relationships between suppliers and auto makers. “He’s a nice person, and unfortunately you can’t say that about every purchasing person who has come through this town.”

For years, GM ranked poorly in Planning Perspectives’ studies. “He’s been turning things around, and working hard to do it,” Henke says of Andersson.

“The new person is going to have an easier time getting their arms around the job because (GM) will be smaller. But someone at that level at that company is going to have to be experienced and know the industry well and get along with the supply base. It’s going to be a tough job to fill.”