David Chen


M.S. Statistics 1983, M.S. Electrical and Computer Engineering 1984

Vice President of General Motors (GM) China Group, General Manager, GM Beijing Operation

Written by: Andrea Rau, Ph.D. candidate in Statistics

Dr. David S. Chen is currently the Vice President of General Motors (GM) China Group and General Manager of the GM Beijing Operation. GM is the world’s largest automaker, and has been the global industry sales leader for 76 years. Today, GM manufactures and sells its cars and trucks in over thirty countries. Chen’s current responsibilities include public policy, government relations, and corporate affairs, as well as managing advanced technology. 

After earning his bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from East China Normal University in Shanghai, Chen came to Purdue to earn his Master’s degrees in Statistics and Computer Engineering. Chen graduated from Purdue in 1984, and shortly afterwards he joined GM as a research scientist. During his first years with the company, he worked on a variety of assignments, including automotive manufacturing automation and process optimization.

Chen spent ten years working at GM on these projects, before moving to work on GM programs in China in 1994. Since then, he has held positions as Managing Director of Delphi Shanghai (GM Automotive Component Group), Executive Director of New Business Development and Planning, Executive Director of Product Development, and General Manager of Shanghai GM Dongvue JV. Throughout his career with GM in China, Chen has played a key role in joint venture negotiations, merger and acquisition projects, product portfolio planning and development, and joint venture management.

"When General Motors came to China, we thought this market would be different, that it would be focused on low cost," said Chen in a recent interview in BusinessWeek. "But the consumer base is so broad that it covers all the varieties. There are certainly people who are cost-conscious, and there's a low-cost market predominantly played by Chinese automakers. But there is the high-end segment as well. I would not stereotypically rank China only as a low-cost market. With a country of 1.3 billion people, anything could happen."

Chen also holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Campus, as well as a Master’s degree from the Sloane Management Program at Stanford University. Throughout his career, he has greatly benefited from his quantitative background. "Training in mathematics and statistics is very helpful for analytical thinking and problem solving!" he said. However, in addition to coursework, Chen stresses the importance of teamwork and interpersonal dynamics for a successful career. "Study well, focus on what you like," he said. "Be a people person and always willing to help."

Dr. David Chen received the College of Science Distinguished Alumni Award from Purdue University, College of Science in 2008.

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