Serving as president and CEO of a domestic auto company is like serving as a head coach of a bad football team. You always take pot shots from so-called experts as well as people who just don’t know what they’re talking about. And just about everyone is calling for you to resign.
That is no less the situation for General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner. People are calling on him to resign and Congress may demand it if GM is to get its share of the bailout money that might be ready to divy up later this month.
So now the so-called experts are wondering who could replace Wagoner. Some point to GM COO Fritz Henderson. But if everyone is complaining about how GM is being run, then why tap a person who is part of the problem?
Some have suggested Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. Everyone seems to think that this guy is a genius. And he very well may be. But he’s 73 years old. We thought we needed a young, forward thinking CEO to turn GM around for the 21st Century.
Some pundits have been looking around at other car companies and have pointed to a few possibilities should GM desire to raid a competitor. One person who comes to mind for some is Carlos Ghosn, the chief of Renault-Nissan. Actually this may be a good choice. Ghosn has shown that he is a forward thinker and has been relatively successful with Renault-Nissan. There is even talk that GM could become part of a troika of Renault-Nissan-General Motors. Another good idea. That gives GM the chance to share in many of what is best about Nissan and Renault.
Finally, there are people who point to Roger Penske. It is said that whenever there is an opening in Detroit people point to Roger Penske. We guess that’s fine. No one can say that he doesn’t have car experience. But he’s a racer who likes to build high performance cars and is that what the direction of General Motors should be in these tough times? Moreover, Penske is 71 years old.
Why not raid Honda or Toyota? Perhaps there is a junior executive in one of those companies who have the Honda or Toyota philosophy down pat and can share it with us Americans.
Another possible job that may need to be filled is the post of “Car Czar.” The legislation that is making its way through Congress that will provide a bridge loan of $15 billion to the domestic three also calls for the creation of a post in government that will oversee the car companies and, for lack of a better term, people are calling the post the “Car Czar.”
Who would be a good Car Czar? Some point to Robert Lane, chairman of John Deere. They like his experience. They say that Deere is a mini GM that deals with employees who are part of the United Autoworkers Union. The company has a similar distribution network — dealers to consumers. And it is successfully facing off foreign competition.
Others look at John G. Rice, the vice chairman of General Electric and CEO of GE’s Technology Infrastructure. People tout the fact that he runs a global business group with 106,000 employees and has to deal with such issues as healthcare, aviation and transportation. We like the idea that he’s involved with the development of new technologies and infrastructure. Both important in order to create a new technology and then to develop an infrastructure to get it out to consumers. Another good argument in favor of Mr. Rice is that under his guidance his company earned a significant profit margin of 22 percent on revenues of $57.9 billion.
Those who are aware of the potential foreign crop of execs who could fill the post point to Sergio Marchionne. He is CEO of Fiat. What people who favor him like most is the fact that Fiat is a lot like General Motors. They say that Marchionne recognized that the company had talented, knowledgeable and skilled people when he took over but it had a culture problem. That is there were too many platforms and too many people doing the same thing across brands. So he streamlined things by making the management more responsible, innovated the design process and reduced the number of platforms.
Our take? So far it appears that it will be President Bush who will select the “Car Czar” before he leaves office. But, just as is the case with any transition, a President Obama will then have the option of keeping the guy or firing him and hiring his own man. So this thing still has a while to play out.
via CNN Money