Stempel joined GM in its Oldsmobile Division in 1958 as a senior detailer in the chassis design department. He became chairman and CEO of GM on August 1, 1990 and left that position on November 1, 1992.
In 1973, after working as a senior designer, transmission design engineer and motor engineer with Oldsmobile, Stempel was named as a special assistant to GM president Ed Cole, who asked him to coordinate development of emission control devices for passenger cars. That work led to the design of the catalytic converter.
Stempel’s other roles in the company included director of engineering for Chevrolet, general manager of Pontiac, managing director of Adam Opel AG in Germany, and vice-president and group executive in charge of the Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac group.
Following his resignation as chairman and CEO of GM in 1992, he became chairman of the board of Energy Conversion Devices in December 1995 and retired as that firm’s CEO on August 31, 2007.
In a statement, GM said, “The General Motors family mourns the passing of Bob Stempel, who admirably led the company during very difficult times in the early 1990s. Bob was a very popular chairman with employees, and his many accomplishments as a visionary engineer included leading the development of the catalytic converter, one of the great environmental advancements in auto history.
“His knowledge of battery development led to the push for the EV1 electric car, and Bob continued to build his expertise in the electrification of the automobile after he left GM in 1992.”