GM’s North American president, Mark Reuss, was in the running as CEO in 2010, but was passed-over for an alleged “lack of seasoning,” says Reuters after reading an upcoming book by GM’s former CEO, Ed Whitacre. Instead of Reuss, who had shown that he knows what he is doing, a completely unseasoned Dan Akerson was put at the helm of GM.
According to the book, Whitacre recommended Reuss as his replacement when Whitacre stepped down after the bailout. Whitacre writes:
“Mark had zoomed up the executive chain in record time; he went from midlevel engineer to the No. 2 person in the company in the space of a year, more or less. The plus was that Mark was showing a lot of poise and management potential. The downside was that he hadn’t been in the job long enough to prove himself as a CEO.”
“One thing everybody agreed on: Mark had a lot of potential. The only concern was his short time in the job. If we asked him to step into the CEO’s job, and it didn’t work out, that would be a disaster for Mark – and an even bigger disaster for GM. The company needed stability. The revolving door in the CEO’s suite had to stop. At this point Dan Akerson volunteered to do the job.”
Akerson likes to promote the storyline that he had been drafted into running GM, and that it was “a call to service.” Just the opposite is true, writes Whitacre:
“Akerson wanted to be chairman and CEO from day one. When Dan put his hand up, that took care of the problem. Not very elegant, I will admit. But that’s how it played out.”
64 year old Akerson does not want to talk about retirement. Many hope, some demand that he would.
Along with Reuss, Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann, global product development chief Mary Barra, and, god help GM, Vice Chairman Steve Girsky are being discussed as possible replacements.
Running a car company is a highly complex matter, it probably is one of the most demanding jobs on earth. Successful CEOs, such as Akio Toyoda, Carlos Ghosn, or Ferdinand Piech all know what it takes to build a car and how to run a car company. Akerson is still learning, and GM does not need an apprentice on top.
Whitacre’s book, “American Turnaround: Reinventing AT&T and GM and the Way We Do Business in the USA,” will be published Feb. 5 by Business Plus books.