GM CEO Fritz Henderson Going, Going, Ghosn?

Frank Williams
by Frank Williams

If it walks like a lame duck, talks like a lame duck . . . . During an interview with Fritz Henderson, the New York Times asked the GM CEO if the bankrupt automaker needed someone from outside GM to inject a little fresh blood. Fritz didn’t care for the insinuation. “Carlos Ghosn was no outsider [when he turned around Nissan]. Lee Iacocca wasn’t an industry outsider when he took over at Chrysler.” That’s right, Fritz, but neither of them had spent their entire working life sipping the corporate Kool-Aid at the company they saved. You, on the other hand, have never tasted any flavor but GM Grape. As former GM Director and current behind-the-scenes talent spotter Jerry York points out, “Fritz might be 20 percent better than Wagoner, or maybe 50 percent better, but the question is, is that good enough?” Talk about damned by faint praise . . . What’s the bet that the new, government-appointed BOD’s answers “no” after they “evaluate whether Mr. Henderson deserves to hold his job more permanently”? Place your wagers on Henderson’s defenestration date below.

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  • Jaywalker Jaywalker on Jun 16, 2009

    I vote the Goverment Motors real owners will keep Fritz on for morale purposes and signal an early retirement for him. I don't expect he'll keep much real authority, though.

  • Buickman Buickman on Jun 16, 2009

    Does GM need a superhero? Buickman has The Plan By Edward Lapham Automotive News / May 10, 2005 COMMENT Edward Lapham is the executive editor of Automotive News. He writes commentaries for Automotive News online every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Kirk Kerkorian and Jerry York may or may not have a secret agenda for General Motors. But Kerkorian does have a copy of "The Plan for a Return to Greatness," sent to him by its author as soon as Kerkorian let the world know he wants to own about 9 percent of GM's stock. OK, we don't know what Kerkorian has done with his very own copy of "The Plan for a Return to Greatness," but maybe he should take a look. That author is 47-year-old Jim Dollinger, a second-generation car salesman and general manager of Suski Chevrolet/Buick in Birch Run, Mich., near Flint. Dollinger calls himself Buickman because he says he's been the best-selling Buick salesman in America for six consecutive years. He's also something of a shareholder gadfly who has attended every GM annual meeting since 1982. Buickman isn't shy … or modest … or afraid to speak his mind. He's an outspoken critic of GM's leadership and has a Web site to carry his message far and wide, For the record, he also was a critic of Ron Zarrella and initially a big fan of Bob Lutz, though that has faded. Through the magic of e-mail, Buickman has blanketed much of the civilized world with portions of The Plan, which he has been developing since 1997. All he wants to do is get GM off the fire-sale, deal-of-the-month rollercoaster. And he'll probably tout his ideas at GM's annual meeting June 7 in Wilmington, Del. He has sent what he says are the first 20 points of The Plan to GM execs, GM retirees, GM shareholders, GM dealers, suppliers, Wall Street analysts and any journalist who has written about GM in the last couple of years. Buickman sends it with the stipulation that specific points of The Plan must not be revealed because The Plan is so potent he doesn't want it to fall into the hands of the competition. That may sound goofy, but it ain't a bad plan. Some of it ought to work. Several of his 20 points are no-brainers that wouldn't cost a dime to implement. Some would even save GM a couple of bucks here and there. His ideas tend to be marketing, merchandising, selling or training techniques that have worked for him at the dealership level and which he believes can be extrapolated to work nationally for GM's brands. There is nothing radical or magical about his recipe, although another dollop of new product wouldn't hurt. So if The Plan is so hot, why won't GM's brass listen? Well, some have, even though the Buickman's unflinching, testy attitude toward GM management hasn't made it easy to deal with him or even meet him halfway. But at least a few are prepared to hear him out. There's another bump in the road. Buickman wants to save GM and restore the automaker's greatness, but he also wants to get paid for it, like a consultant. That includes an upfront fee. That's probably reasonable. If The Plan rebuilds GM's market share, which nobody else has been able to do, why shouldn't he be rewarded? Even if The Plan doesn't restore five points of market share, at least he has a plan, as the Buickman likes to point out.

  • Buickman Buickman on Jun 16, 2009

    CAR SALES CHAMP CRUSADES TO RAISE PROFITS FOR GM Ed Garsten First comes the mile-wide smile, followed by the warm handshake and then the barrage of bromides like "waterfalls begin with raindrops." The next thing you know, Jim Dollinger has your attention, your trust and finally your money. A six-time national Buick sales champ, the 46-year old father of seven girls has minted a simple philosophy "pay attention and meet customer needs rather than dwell on price" to become a Mr. Fixit of sorts for underachieving dealerships. Now he wants to do the same for the company that builds the cars he sells, General Motors Corp. Early this year, Dollinger met at the automaker's headquarters with GM North America President Gary Cowger and John Smith, GM's sales and marketing group vice president. After hearing Dollinger's ideas, they offered him $5,000 for the rights to his proposals. He turned it down, saying his ideas are worth much more than five grand. "This is something that's worth billions to the company, billions to the stockholders with no investment," Dollinger said. Aside from managing hundreds of new car customers, he's been the general manager at Suski Chevrolet Buick in Birch Run, MI for a year now. In 2002, he was hired to fix Williamson Buick in Flint. He promptly changed the name to Patsy Lou Buick "to feminize it" and make the showroom more hospitable to women. Sales increased 60 percent in a year, Dollinger said. His magic is working at Suski Chevrolet Buick. Sales jumped 80 percent in March, 60 percent in April and are on track to improve a whopping 125 percent in May, said new car sales manager Brad Goldman. "He pays a lot of attention to the customer" Goldman said of Dollinger. "He's a go-getter, lights a fire and always pushes us." Dollinger won't divulge all the specifics of his plan for healing GM, which once dominated with more than 50 percent of the U.S. market but now controls just 27 percent. But he says GM must bolster its image by cutting back and simplifying incentives and refine and enhance its product lines so that more people aspire to own them, remove members of the board of directors who are tied to investment banks, reduce executive compensation and give dealers more autonomy to do their own advertising and marketing. "Without spending money, without capital investment and by actually lowering costs, I can implement this plan, increase market share, build for profit, reposition for growth and reposition this organization," Dollinger said. He's "an interesting guy" said Suski's Brad Goldman. Some 100 shareholders are expected to show up for GM's annual meeting, where Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner will outline the company's recent achievements and its goals. Among seven shareholder proposals, one would create an outside chairman independent of the chief executive officer post, eliminate new stock option grants to top management and require GM "significantly reduce" greenhouse emissions from its vehicles by 2013 and 2023. GM's board of directors has recommended none of the stockholder proposals be approved. For supersalesman Jim Dollinger, however, the only proposals that matter are those he never stops thinking about...returning GM to the days of market dominance and big profits. "I don't hunt, fish or golf," Dollinger said. "I'm a single-minded man of purpose, and I'm here to make a difference." (The Detroit News June 3, 2004)

  • Mikey Mikey on Jun 16, 2009

    If it was up to me Jim, aka Buickman would be on the payroll tomorrow.Tie his compensation to market share. Nothing ventured,nothing gained eh?