GM Chairman Scares Execs With Actual Expectations

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

Fritz Henderson got a thumbs-up from the Board of Directors just days ago, but it seems that Chairman Ed Whitacre doesn’t want anyone to get comfortable. The Freep‘s Tom Walsh just posted a column describing GM execs as “rattled” by Whitacre’s recent revelation that at the New GM executives must earn their keep.

On Wednesday, Whitacre told a group of GM salaried staff — in one of several “diagonal slice” meetings, so called because they mix people from all levels — that he expects to see lots of changes in the next 12 weeks. Changes every day.

So, is the party over? Surely GM’s brass knew that there would be some accountability, someday. Right?

‘I found it stunning,’ one GM executive told me Thursday, after hearing that Whitacre had spoken so pointedly to the employee group about the urgency of producing visible changes in 12 weeks . . . Another GM officer described Whitacre as ‘frighteningly direct’ in conversation, making it clear that every top executive’s job at the automaker is on the line, and that heads could roll in the next two or three months if there’s not significant progress in vehicle sales, market share and profitability.

Stunning? Frighteningly direct? Whitacre is merely doing the minimum required to get GM ready for an IPO planned for next summer. The White House wants out of GM, and the UAW would probably like to dump its equity as well. But who’s going to buy in if GM doesn’t radically turn itself around over the next 9 months?

And really, how are they going to turn sales and market share around? The problem with Whitacre’s scare-’em-into-competence approach is that all the incentive is to make GM look good in the short term. Which means temptation to cut corners on long-term strategy to pull off the IPO. The terrified reaction to Whitacre’s tough talk proves that GM culture change hasn’t changed. Will turmoil and turnover at the highest levels right now really make a difference in time for next Summer’s IPO?

The IPO delay watch begins now.

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

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  • Aqua225 Aqua225 on Sep 06, 2009

    CarPerson: What in the heck does a 90 degree V6 have to do with anything? GM made plenty of good 90 degree V6 engines and still does. The problem is car build quality and interior materials for folks who chose foreign over domestic designs. On the scare: I buy texlovera's explanation. This is dynamiting at the top level of GM, with a 90 day fuse. I want to see GM survive, so I hope he pulls it off. In my opinion, the only way for that to happen is that most of the top level of GM hits the road, permanently (at least the road out of GM). I also tire of TTAC's downplay of any move at the top. GM is damned on TTAC if they do, damned if they don't. First TTAC condemns no movement, then condemns any movement. One could say TTAC just damns GM! (which I actually believe to be the real truth about it).

  • CarPerson CarPerson on Sep 06, 2009

    Flat and inline six cylinder engines are inherently a balanced design. A six cylinder V-configuration is not. It takes one, if not two balance shafts and crank trickery to achieve 120-degree firing to smooth them out. Start with a 60-degree design and half the battle is won. Starting with a 90-degree V6 design, usually the product of engineering shortcuts and machine tooling limitations, spells defeat at the get-go as General Motors is loathe to spend the money to design and build a 90-degree V6 engine properly. In the early ’60s Buick sold a 90-degree V6 that had the rocker covers bouncing off the shock towers it shook so bad. GM’s solution? Soften up the motor mounts. If General Motors wants to push crap out the door, the MSRP needs to take a healthy wack for every stunt they pull to balance the transaction.

  • Rust-MyEnemy Whoa, what the hell is wrong with Jalop1991 and his condescension? It's as if he's employed by Big Plug-In or something."I've seen plenty of your types on the forums....."Dunno what that means, but I'm not dead keen on being regarded as "A type" by a complete stranger"" I'm guessing you've never actually calculated by hand the miles you've driven against the quantity of gas used--which is your actual miles per gallon."Guess again. Why the hell would you even say that? Yes, I worked it out. Fill-to-fill, based on gas station receipts. And it showed me that a Vauxhall Astra PHEV, starting out with a fully charged PHEV battery, in Hybrid mode, on my long (234-mile) daily motorway daily commute, never, over several months, ever matched or beat the economy of the regular hybrid Honda Civic that I ran for a similar amount of time (circa 5000 miles)."You don't use gasoline at all for 30-40 miles as you use exclusively battery power, then your vehicle is a pure hybrid. Over 234 miles, you will have used whatever gas the engine used for 200 of those miles."At least you're right on that. In hybrid mode, though, the Astra was using battery power when it wasn't at all appropriate. The petrol engine very rarely chimed in when battery power was on tap, and as a result, the EV-mode range quickly disappeared. The regular hybrid Civic, though, deployed its very small electric reserves (which are used up quickly but restore themselves promptly), much more wisely. Such as when on a trailing throttle or on a downward grade, or when in stop-start traffic. As a result, at the end of my 234 miles, the Civic had used less gas than the Astra. Moreover, I hadn't had to pay for the electricity in its battery.I look forward to you arguing that what actually happened isn't what actually happened, but I was there and you were not."Regardless, that you don't understand it appears not to have stopped you from pontificating on it. Please, do us all a favor--don't vote."You really are quite unpleasant, aren't you. But thanks for the advice.
  • Tassos Jong-iL Electric vehicles are mandated by 2020 in One Korea. We are ahead of the time.
  • 1995_SC Can you still get some of the tax credits under the new program?
  • Analoggrotto HyundaiGenesisKia saw this coming a long time ago and are poised for hybrid and plug-in hybrid segment leadership:[list=1][*] The most extensive range of hybrids[/*][*]Highest hybrid sales proportion over any other model [/*][*]Best YouTube reviews [/*][*]Highest number of consumer reports best picks [/*][*]Class leading ATPs among all hybrid vehicles and PHEVs enjoy segment bearing eATPs[/*][/list=1]While some brands like Toyota have invested and wasted untold fortunes into full range electric lineups HyundaiKiaGenesis has taken the right approach here.
  • EBFlex The answer is yes. Anyone that says no is just….. wrong.But the government doesn’t want people to have that much freedom and the politicians aren’t making money off PHEVs or HEVs. So they will be stifled.