The federal government has criticised General Motors' decision to promote Holden managing director Mike Devereux to a new international position during crucial funding negotiations with the local car maker.
Mr Devereux, the figurehead for Holden during the latest rounds of industry funding talks, was on Friday appointed vice-president of sales, marketing and after-sales in GM's consolidated international operations division.
The promotion, which starts next month, will involve Mr Devereux relocating to GM's offices in Shanghai to oversee operations across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
It leaves Holden without a managing director in Australia from January next year (he will be working remotely for the last two months of the year) but the company will begin the search for a replacement in the coming weeks.
At least one senior industry source has been aware of Mr Devereux's looming departure for some time but the timing still comes as a surprise, given Holden's negotiations with the government.
Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane said Mr Devereux's appointment could disrupt the talks.
"I am very disappointed with the timing, but that disappointment's not with Mike, it's with GM," Mr Macfarlane said. "The reality is that it's not going to affect my timing, it might make things a little bit more difficult for me but I've got to produce an outcome by June next year and I've just got to proceed anyway. I've just got to get on with it."
Mr Devereux plans to "shuttle" between Shanghai and Australia. The Coalition has called on GM to delay a $1 billion co-investment in its Australian manufacturing operations until after a Productivity Commission review of the sector.