GM CEO Rick Wagoner: Voldemort Syndrome Redux

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
gm ceo rick wagoner voldemort syndrome redux

Rick Wagoner has problem with “b” words. You’ll no sooner hear the GM CEO utter the words “bankruptcy” and “bailout” than you’ll hear him calling the switch from SUVs and pickups (combined with the end of easy credit) “a God damn motherfucker.” But who knew that Red Ink Rink was so reticent about saying the name of his Detroit competitors? In honor of GM’s 100th anniversary (Hello? That’s so last week), The Detroit Free Press‘ Katie “I Heart GM” Merx gathered some reminiscences from the tano kubwa: Wagoner, Car Czar Bob Lutz, CFO Ray Young, design chief Ed Wellburn and, oops! Where’s COO Fritz Henderson? Probably down at the bank, getting a cashier’s check for $3.5b. Anyway, here’s Rick’s tale of his first awareness of the company that would eventually pay him $15.5m annually to run it into the ground. “‘When I was a kid, whether I was 10 years old or 8 years old, on the school bus coming home, we used to count whether there were more Fords or Chevrolets,’ Wagoner recounted for the Free Press this month. ‘And, um, at that point my father drove Brand X and my friend’s father drove a Chevrolet. And one day, there were more Brand X’s and my friend said, ‘That’s not fair. I’m only counting Chevrolet, and not all of General Motors.’ I said, ‘Well, what are you talking about?’ That’s when I realized there’s more to this than just the brand name on the car.'”

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4 of 18 comments
  • John Horner John Horner on Sep 22, 2008

    There are so many gems in that article, like this one from CFO Young: " .... He certainly didn't plan to work for GM. His opinion was that it was a stodgy company run by an old, homogenous crowd. ... Once he was at GM, Young's aspiration became to get a job where he would receive a company car. Said Young, who's waiting for a new Chevrolet Malibu as his next company car: 'Sometimes I can't believe I'm the CFO.'" It didn't take Young long to get his grove on with the GM culture. No talk about what he wanted to accomplish for the customers, employees or shareholders. Nope, just angling for the company car.

  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Sep 22, 2008

    He doesn't have any problem with one B word - Bank. He banks his money while begging banks for GM's.

  • Blautens Blautens on Sep 22, 2008

    I call BS on that little anecdote. My guess - as a child, Rick and his little freakish friend would keep track of the brands of adding machines they would see in the accounting classes they took. Rick's no car guy. He never noticed the car's brands as they whizzed by. He was lucky he noticed them at all, and didn't get plastered by one.

  • Robert.Walter Robert.Walter on Apr 23, 2009

    Our high school was next to an interstate highway ... when the 1979 Ford LTD and 1979 Chevy Caprice came out, my buddy used to sit in history class, and for a semester, looked out the window and tallied '79 Ford v. Chevy, and daydream about Ford usurping Chevy's place in the market... BTW, how is it that the CFO of a "major" corporation can get geeked about getting a Malibu as a new company car? Wouldn't such a dude aspire to a 'Vette, or Caddy-something, or Pontiac GX8? Might as well hang a sign on his back saying "I am so far from a car-guy that I can't tell shit from shinola."