The vice chairman's slot at GM seldom has carried a great deal of clout, but Mr. Pearce's election to the board puts him clearly No.2 in the corporate hierarchy. An Air Force Academy graduate and former lawyer, municipal judge and police commissioner in his native Bismarck, ND, Mr. Pearce joined GM 10 years ago as associate general counsel, moving up to general counsel two years later. He was elevated to executive vice president in 1992 with responsibility for most of GM's nonautomotive operations, and got the rest in another promotion in 1994 when Mr. Hoglund exited. He won national attention in 1993 when GM nailed NBC's Dateline for faking a crash and fire involving a GM C/K pickup, forcing the network to issue an apology.