A surprise top-level management change at Saab Cars USA has occurred with the departure of 21-year GM veteran Joel K. Manby and promotion of Saab veteran Dan Chasins to succeed him as president and CEO.

Mr. Manby, 40, left the GM subsidiary to become president of a six-month-old auto sales website partially owned by megadealer Asbury Automotive Group - Greenlight.com, based in San Mateo, CA.

The third GM executive to leave in recent years for an Internet position, Mr. Manby had been a Saturn regional manager before assuming the top post at Saab Cars in 1996.

As he replaced Mr. Manby in April, Mr. Chasins 47, announced a revised marketing structure that will oversee global markets for the Swedish-built car. Greenlight CEO Todd Collins said it is online in 12 U.S. cities as an exclusive new-vehicle sales link for Internet giant Amazon.com.

The new website plans to ally with dealers and manufacturers in the sales process, contrasting with portals which seek to sell and deliver vehicles bypassing direct dealer involvement.

Mr. Manby said that during his term, Saab's U.S. sales rose 35.5% from 28,450 in 1997 to 39,541 in 1999 and he had ino quarreli with GM after completing his sales-increase assignment. This year in the first quarter, Saab sales declined 22.8% to 6,773 from 8,384 in 1999.

"Frankly," Mr. Manby says, "I'm more dedicated about what customers go through in buying cars than the cars themselves."

Between his Saturn and Saab stints, Mr. Manby managed the Saturn dealerships owned by the Al Serra group, based in Grand Blanc, MI.

A former colleague of Mr. Manby's at Saturn, Joseph Kennedy, who earlier had been Cadillac general sales manager, left GM in 1998 to become president of e-loan.com.

GM North America vice president Roy S. Roberts, who oversaw vehicle sales, service and marketing, retired this year to begin an on-line exchange for minority suppliers.