Finally – a head rolls

Posted by Paul Horrell at 9:20 am on Monday March 30, 2009

GM logoPresident Barack Obama has showed his teeth. He’s told the boss of GM to resign. Presumably he wouldn’t have done that unless he was about to give GM the billions in loans the company is asking for. The president needed to get some collateral, didn’t he?

Rick Wagoner was never a car guy. I met him several times and honestly his eyes never showed the slightest flicker of interest when the subject came up. There was no clue he wasn’t running a washing-machine maker.

He got other people to design and engineer the vehicles. He didn’t interfere. If they were talented, that was fine. And in Europe, they have been pretty good. But if those designers and engineers did badly, GM knocked out a clunker and Wagoner didn’t know the difference.

Rick WagonerHe kept himself busy with another task. A boring but necessary one. He had to sort out the ghastly mess of GM’s finances. Persuade tens of thousands of workers to take redundancy, closing dozens of factories. Drive down the costs of pensions and healthcare. Cut better deals with suppliers and dealers. Trickiest of all, negotiate endlessly with Wall Street to secure lines of credit to keep the whole wobbly edifice afloat day-to-day.

But he’d been in charge for eight years. He’d got costs down. His engineers had got the vehicles more and more reliable. They were on the way to becoming better cars, full stop – more attractive, better to drive, more economical.

But the car range hadn’t got good enough fast enough. Obviously it hadn’t, or GM would have made money in the good years, 2007 and 2008. Instead it lost billions.

GM’s top management didn’t expect Wagoner to get the heave-ho.

And that just shows how staggeringly out of touch those guys have been with the American public. If a corporation is asking for loans of $30 billion of public money, it’s obviously a company that has failed catastrophically in the past.

The boss must take responsibility. The public, in Britain as well as the US, has got pretty fed up with heads not rolling. President Obama has a talent for reading the public mood. He could see that Wagoner had to go.

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  1. Arab said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:05 am Link to comment Report comment

    how can someone who isnt interested about cars become the boss of the biggest company for cars?
    I’m glad he is leaving.

  2. Kev said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:15 am Link to comment Report comment

    Wagoner has been a dead man waking for years (except the septics don’t punish useless senior execs, do they?). Hopefuly we’ll see an end to this ridiculous U.S culture of golden parachutes to reward extreme failure.

    Is Obama reading the public mood on THAT one?

  3. ecosse8 said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:19 am Link to comment Report comment

    The problem is how do you take a car company the size of GM and reduce it to what is required by the market – a company the size of say Fiat…well thats one very big head down..

  4. fuzz said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:34 am Link to comment Report comment

    its about time

  5. YankeeDoodle said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:35 am Link to comment Report comment

    Because he wasn’t really interested in cars, he just wants to make money, lots of it =P
    The whole existence is GM has been always on doubt. Reduced, or erased, GM can’t stay like this forever.
    -CHANGE-

  6. Musashi said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 10:45 am Link to comment Report comment

    So long as he doesn’t become the scape goat for ALL incompetent managers; this will be a good thing if it is the beginning of the global clean out for failure.
    Personally, I think the whole board should be sacked – and for a lot more companies than just GM.

  7. Af. said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 11:23 am Link to comment Report comment

    Even the CEO of Peugeot is leaving in France…

    Hope this kicks off a new era in the motor industry. A new bright one…

  8. Adam said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 1:40 pm Link to comment Report comment

    The Canadian Auto Workers Union president was saying on the radio today how big a car guy Wagoner was. That guy is a clown though. I’m sort of indifferent as to the decision, I guess you English have seen all of this before.

  9. Nidzo Makedonija said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm Link to comment Report comment

    You want change anything just by firing Wagoner. US understanding of making vehicles is the biggest problem, or let’s say there “megalomaniac” approach to everything. Obama: US will continue to build best cars in the world like they always did! That’s the biggest problem that they have.

  10. Bob.Dussen said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 5:03 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I`m wondering who will take his place hopefully some one with a eye on the future in reguards to the EV`s that they killed that project off, for reason we all now (Oil!)and the Oil company`s and other reasons..! Waste,Time and good money.What a Shame,

    Who Killed The EVs

  11. Bob.Dussen said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 5:37 pm Link to comment Report comment

    For the Guys of Top Gear

  12. trist said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 6:30 pm Link to comment Report comment

    If they want change…get the US regulators to start working with their Euro counterparts and stop destroying great cars for US road use. That and firing most upper management and boards of directors at all US car companies.

  13. PatrickBMW said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 8:46 pm Link to comment Report comment

    As an American, I’m happy to see the President has fired Wagoner. At least in Britain you have decent Vauxhalls to buy, but in the US, most GM cars are still pretty bad. As said, “the car range hadn’t gotten good enough fast enough.”

  14. catersam said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 9:25 pm Link to comment Report comment

    One word:

    WWWWHHHHEEEYYYY!

  15. mazdas said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm Link to comment Report comment

    mazdas card borad wheel archers
    see for yourself ?

  16. Mr Haughey said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 11:19 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I can’t believe Wagoner wasn’t a car guy.
    Unenthusiasts shouldn’t control ethusiastic companies. Obama may just be right to have flung him.

  17. mazda3freak said...
    Monday March 30, 2009 at 11:44 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Hopefully this means a new era of automaker management, people with a passion for the product and not just bean counters.

  18. Scott said...
    Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 12:10 am Link to comment Report comment

    It is fairly evident that the last American auto executive to actually be excited about cars was Lee Iacocca. That’s been ages.
    I’m hoping that somewhere along the line a real gearhead gets a post.

  19. witek said...
    Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 2:01 am Link to comment Report comment

    The problem with having a gear-head in charge is that they would want the company to make good cars. That is a tall order for many car companies these days, as a good car is an expensive one. Cheap sells.

  20. 3rdWorldMonkey said...
    Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 2:39 am Link to comment Report comment

    GM car designs & engines are to European cars what teenagers are to adults – prototypes. Sometimes you enjoy them for their misplaced enthusiasm, but ultimately they are annoying & you want them gone or to grow up a helluva lot faster.

    http://www.theflyingdutch man.co.za

  21. Barnaby Jones said...
    Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 4:41 am Link to comment Report comment

    Back in the day Honda’s Takeo designed the MotoGP bikes and tried an F1 car (Hammond like not Hamilton like…but personally testing out an F1 car is props in my book).

    Still Honda has been making some questionable dicisions when it comes to coupes/supercars/F1.

    What I’m saying, CEOs get too much blame in the bad times and too much credit in the good.

  22. F.King-Hell said...
    Tuesday March 31, 2009 at 10:06 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Can’t say I agree on that one Mr Barnaby Jones – if the company goes bad it is the CEO who is the lead & up to him to guide it – ergo he should go & give a more able man the job. waggoner has fallen by his own hand in many ways, just like Micheal Edwards did from BL. Now if we can apply that to our own governmaent we can get rid of the one eyed slack jawed dullard who is our “CEO” & have anybody else (as in surely anybody can do a better job). Even David Blunkett has the vision to see recent monetary policy will leave us in the shite for the next 20 years, but old Gordon keeps mumbling on & gives more & more money to a corrupt banking system. Perhaps we should be glad we have no national car industry left to support as ours was put out of it’s misery bit by bit over the 70′s 80′s & 90′s (it would have been hilarious if it had managed to take down the arrogant pr*cks at BMW as it so nearly did!!)
    Gotta agree with 3rd world monkey though – succinctly put!
    Can’t agree with Witeck – cheap sells a little, but of the car is crap doesn’t sell a lot (ask Fiat), these days a car must be cheap (or at least reasonably priced) & good (eg Focus etc). Cheap & shite is what got the American car industry in the mire in the first place – & Obama has given them a whole 30 / 60 days to reform – that’s realistic eh? I fear he may have been speaking to our own G.Brown for advice – doesn’t anybody notice that his eyes shift about when he speaks & he keeps his tongue in his cheek – how could we get a special needs person as our prime minister? (not like we voted him in is it?)
    Finally who thinks Jaqui Smith is in a position to pass judgement over who is a criminal & who is not when she can’t even preside over her own fininces without trying to screw us out of a state sponsored wankathon by her husband & his taste for illicit & salacious porno?
    I hardly dare whisper this but – bring back the Tories – they can do no worse!?!

  23. tele said...
    Wednesday April 1, 2009 at 1:19 am Link to comment Report comment

    Per JC, Obama has no business running a car company. His one car is a 2008 Ford Escape hybrid. http://blogs.abcnews.com/ politicalradar/2008/09/re port-mccain-h.html

  24. j keetley said...
    Wednesday April 1, 2009 at 2:10 pm Link to comment Report comment

    ha ha ha ha ha

  25. Tom Servo said...
    Wednesday April 1, 2009 at 3:11 pm Link to comment Report comment

    Everyone’s celebrating the ousting of the “non-car guy” heading GM, but now that the government’s calling the shots, is that really any better? I mean, does the government know any more about making good cars than Rick did?

    I’m all for the idea that the gov’t gets a hand in the company for bailing them out, but I don’t think the government is gonna be any better at appointing a smart car guy (not a Smart Car guy!) than GM got with Wagoner.

  26. Car Guy said...
    Wednesday April 29, 2009 at 6:50 am Link to comment Report comment

    As Nelson Muntz would eloquently put it:”Ha Ha….”

    American cars are all crap, if it were not for patriotism all American car companies would’ve been dead a looooooong time ago.

    Americans (yeah not all i know, but): instead of just blindly defending your cars, try and open your eyes and see just how good European and Japanese cars are, even the Koreans are getting good for cryin out loud.. Then guide your patriotism and energy to get your “Big 3″ to actually make better cars that can genuinely compete on the global stage. THAT’S Patriotism.

  27. RaaziPoP said...
    Monday May 4, 2009 at 3:41 pm Link to comment Report comment

    I heard topgear is banned and james and richards having problems with Jeremy is this true

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