General Motors (GM) Rick Wagoner is “an excellent CEO,” says David Cole, head of the centre for Automotive Research, a…group funded partly by auto makers and their suppliers.” He may be the only one who thinks so.
Highlights of Wagoner’s 8-year reign, courtesy of George Anders at the WSJ:
- GM stock down 83%, now at lowest level in 54 years.
- 50% dividend cut
- Global unit market share down to 12.5% from 25% (vs. Wagoner’s pledge to take it to 28%)
- Plunge into SUVs, Hummers, and other gas guzzlers
- Looming liquidity crisis
Wagoner’s celebrated successes, meanwhile, include some cost reductions that won’t kick in until 2010 and finally moving forward with a car that runs on a battery.
Will GM go bankrupt on Wagoner’s watch? Too early to tell. At the very least, the company will likely have to sell off assets or massively dilute shareholders to stave off disaster.
Why haven’t GM shareholders tossed Wagoner out on his rear? In part, we suspect, because Americans have long since stopped expecting a real, sustainable turnaround at Ford and GM. This is a pity. There’s no reason the US car industry–and GM–can’t become great again, as long as the CEO has the vision and balls to force the necessary changes.
Rick Wagoner has now had eight years to demonstrate that he has what it takes. GM’s board, apparently, is happy to give him another eight.
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