Toyota COO Jim Lentz will be getting a new role – CEO of Toyota Motor Sales North America. The announcement was buried in a press release announcing other management changes at Toyota’s stateside operations.
Bob Nardelli will be leaving Cerberus Capital Management, the private equity firm that famously owned Chrysler during the company’s 2009 bankruptcy. Nardelli served as Chrysler CEO from 2007 until the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
SvD.se reports that Paul Akerlund, Saab’s former IF Metall (one of Sweden’s largest trade unions) representative and now Trollhättan Municipal Council Chairman, has called for the resignation of Saab CEO Victor Muller, saying
I do not think Victor Muller is a good president. He is an owner and a contractor, but he has not sufficient knowledge about how to manage production and development
And Akerlund is no city government busybody, but a longtime company insider who has been influential in Saab’s post-GM life. Having shepherded Saab through the challenges of the past two years, this is another grim sign that Saab is about to succumb to the realities that have dominated TTAC’s Saab coverage for years now. A commentary in SvD, titled “Thank Muller for Painful Bankruptcy” sums up the somber mood in Sweden:
[Saab] has been on artificial respiration for nearly two years. It is down now, and from all indications we can only conclude that the whole process was a painfully protracted bankruptcy. And we have only one person to thank for it.
The Detroit News snagged a lengthy interview with GM CEO Dan Akerson, giving observers one of the first in-depth looks at the man who will be leading The General for the next three to four years. The interview is to lengthy to summarize here, but there are a few items that are worth noting…
Despite not having spent a dime on the US firm, Fiat is widely credited with “rescuing” Chrysler. Here’s another way of looking at it: the United States taxpayers bailed out Fiat, an Italian firm with no presence in the US market. For no money down, Fiat got a 20 percent stake in a Chrysler that, although troubled, had been rinsed clean in bankruptcy. Now, analysts looking at Fiat’s spin-off of its automotive unit are telling Automotive News [sub] that
Fiat’s 20 percent stake in Chrysler, currently with a zero book value, is the biggest positive element seen by analysts for the new Fiat S.p.A., which will comprise the Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Ferrari and Maserati car brands when it starts trading on Jan. 3. Fiat’s truck and tractor units will be spun off on the same day into a new unit called Fiat Industrial S.p.
Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne is an agonizing character. There can be no doubt that he’s one of the smartest execs in the business, and yet he so often comes off as the stuffy, pedantic college professor, who sputters into ad hominem at the faintest sign of criticism. His speeches often revolve around stock speaking points and a copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, and as the video above proves, his delivery is rarely inspiring. But between the Einstein quotes and plaintive self-sympathy, Marchionne can offer moments of unexpected candor. His speech to Chrysler’s dealers earlier this week offered several such moments, and though it’s too long (and, frankly, boring) to reprint in its entirety (click here for the whole thing), here are a few stunners from the mind of Marchionne.
Editor’s Note: GM’s outgoing Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre sent the following email to GM’s senior executives today [via Detroit News]
My goal in coming to General Motors was to help restore profitability, build a strong market position and prepare this iconic company for success. While we have more to do, it is fair to say that GM is headed on that path. Our earnings for the last two quarters show that. Our strong sales show that. And the enthusiasm from everyone I meet at GM shows that.
We are on the right track. And I have complete confidence that Dan Akerson will keep us moving forward. Dan is committed to GM; he’s been a key player in the decisions our Board has made over the last year. He will do a great job, and deserves your complete support.
I have enjoyed my time as CEO of GM more than I can say, and I am pleased to stay on as Chairman through the end of the year. I am excited about this company, and I want you to know that it is the people of GM who make this a very special place. You are the best, and I truly appreciate all you do.
Thank you for the privilege of leading this great company. I am anxious to see the new heights that you will achieve as you continue focusing on designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles.
From the moment GM’s Chairman Ed Whitacre took over for Fritz Henderson as CEO, many wondered how long the 68-year-old Texan would stick around. Apparently GM’s board was not immune from such uncertainty either, as Bloomberg reports that it gave Whitacre an ultimatum: commit to the long haul or get out now. According to reports, several Wall Street banks asked Whitacre whether he would be leading GM long-term during pre-IPO meetings. Whitacre didn’t answer at the time, but the pressure from Wall Street clearly pressed the board’s hand. Since Whitacre ultimately didn’t want to stick around for an extended term (posibly due to the Treasury’s unwillingness to dump all of its stock during GM’s IPO), the board picked Dan Akerson to take over. But how will an unexpected handoff to an unknown executive with no industry experience affect GM’s IPO?
GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre just announced during GM’s Q2 financial conference call that he will step down as CEO on September 1, and as Chairman at the end of 2010. GM board member Dan Akerson will take over both of Whitacre’s position. Whitacre called Akerson “very involved” and said he expects a smooth transition. Whitacre planned to leave after “returning GM to greatness,” and says that “with a good foundation in place,” he’s ready to leave. The board’s been aware of Whitacre’s plan, and the board was ready to act when Whitacre said he was ready to step down. Akerson says he and Whitacre “share a vision” for GM, so instead of setting an agenda now, he’s focusing on a smooth transition. Akerson noted that Whitacre “had made some management changes” already, and he’s confident in his “deep bench.” The major transition, he says, “is me,” because he needs to gain a day-to-day, operational perspective on the business.
According to the Korea Times, Automotive News has named its “Auto Executives Of The Year,” bestowing its North American honors upon Ford CEO Alan Mulally, its European award to VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, and its Asian award to Hyundai CEO Chung Mong-Koo. Mulally is credited with improving Ford’s US-market position during a sales downturn, while Winterkorn was honored for his bold plan to move most of VW’s vehicles to only three modular platforms. But perhaps the most controversial award went to Chung, who has improved Hyundai’s standing in the global industry, but has suffered more than his fair share of legal problems in the process.
GM boss Ed Whitacre just finished a brief and unenlightening press conference, in which he revealed that he will remain as permanent Chairman and CEO for the foreseeable future. Whitacre refused to set expectations for how long he would remain at the top of the government-owned automaker, simply saying he would stay “for an adequate amount of time to do what we need to do.” He does not anticipate the appointment of a separate President, COO or Chairman of the Board, leaving him in full control of the company. Whitacre also announced that an already-planned payback of $6.7b in government loans would take place in a lump-sum payment this June. He also clarified that GM was in “advanced talks” with the Dutch firm Spyker over the fate of the Saab brand (or what’s left of it) but that GM has not reversed its decision to wind the brand down, and that he had no announcement of any new deal with Spyker. Saab enthusiasts had hoped Whitacre would announce a Spyker deal at today’s press conference. Meanwhile, Saab hopeful Genii Capital has announced the withdrawal of its Saab bid. Otherwise, Whitacre said he was “encouraged” by GM’s situation and that the his emphasis would be on “fine tuning” going forward.
Having been told by the Secretary of Transportation that the Chrysler Group’s motley assortment of new trim level names, rebadged Lancias, decal-sporting special editions represents “the cutting edge of developing the kind of products that I think people in this country, and also in other countries, are really going to feel very favorable toward,” CEO Sergio Marchionne apparently thought enough had been said about his struggling bailout baby. As CBS reports, Marchionne suddenly canceled a 45-minute scheduled press availability before he had the chance to confirm LaHood’s astonishing opinion.
An anonymous tipster writes in to The Business Insider:
I saw your recent post on Tim Cook at Apple. I don’t know if he has been contacted yet but he is the top candidate that Spencer Stuart has identified as the next CEO of GM. I have an inside source at Spencer Stuart.
[Interim GM CEO Edward E. Whitacre] wants the candidate to come from a company known for operational excellence, innovation and customer satisfaction and in addition he is looking for someone that has turnaround experience. It also doesn’t hurt that [Tim] has been able to work with Jobs. Whitacre does want to stay on as Chairman. Also, Cook has been the key link to AT&T and should understand the culture that Whitacre, [a former AT&T CEO] built.
Will be interesting to see if he would leave Apple for this. I don’t know him but if he wants to be a CEO it does seem he needs to leave with Jobs back. Most interesting will be to see a CEO from Apple and a CFO from Microsoft.
Paging Thomas Friedman! [Hat Tip: CammyCorrigan]
Last year, Porsche gave Magna an eight-year contract to build the Cayman and Boxster models from 2012 on. Then Porsche went to Volkswagen. Then Opel came. VW was miffed and said “us or Opel.” When Magna’s Opel deal went poof, VW said Magna can come home, all is forgiven. Apparently not quite. Volkswagen (or Porsche, hard to say these days…) want to use the factories of bankrupt Karmann which Volkswagen had bought and cancelled the contract. Magna cried foul and wanted money.
A person that’s a motivating, inspirational leader that’s familiar with big companies — manufacturing or industrial — would be helpful… We can’t pay people a whole lot of money here
Ed Whitacre offers up the opportunity of a lifetime [via Automotive News [sub]] : a chance to lead General Motors to victory over decades of inertia and sclerosis in a brutal market for a million bucks (if Feinberg likes you). Candidates need not have CEO experience or strong auto credentials, although Whitacre warns that the job takes him 14 hours a day, 5½ or six days a week. And when he does manage to steal away for a relaxing Sunday of rattlesnake extermination, his phone constantly rings. Plus, the RenCen is a freaking maze, y’know?