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U.S. Shreds Auto Plans; Waggoner Out At GM

President Barack Obama is giving General Motors 60 days to develop a new survival plan without chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, and is setting a 30-day deadline for Chrysler to either partner with Fiat or shut down, Justin Hyde and Tim Higgins report. The ultimatums come with promises of additional aid, including up to $6 billion for a Chrysler-Fiat partnership. The administration will attempt to ease workers' concerns by appointing a director of auto recovery, and will back the warranties of GM and Chrysler vehicles in an attempt to keep shoppers coming.

The Freep's Tom Walsh says "simple math" cost Waggoner his job. Just like a coach on a losing streak, Waggoner's "team lost more than it won in his eight years at the helm." In recent interviews, Obama seemed to go out of his way to point out the mistakes of Detroit-based automakers, even as he expressed a desire to keep them alive, Walsh says. "In other words, he was conveying hope for GM laced with skepticism about its leadership."



Online comments to this story are voluminous and interesting. One reader -- who identifies himself as a former chief engineer at GM Argentina S.A. "ridiculously closed in 1978" -- says, "I see that many people try to blame anybody but GM management, and this is not truth! Management disregarded what the market was looking for." Another blames the press for not reporting "the White House is behaving like a loan shark," adding, "Rick Wagoner is stepping down for GM and for America."

The Los Angeles Times' Ken Bensinger, meanwhile, writes that trying to assure the American consumer that everything is A-OK at the car companies for the past six months has "proved to be the marketing equivalent of trying to stuff a Hummer into the trunk of a Corvette." So while the government has demanded the automakers cut debt, reduce costs and rework union contracts, it has done little to encourage car sales in the short term. That's a major reason Ford steered clear of federal support.

"From a corporate reputation standpoint, we absolutely considered the impact that taking the [federal] loans would have," says Jim Farley, Ford's global head of marketing and communications. "Saying no to the money in D.C. was really a door that opened to us so we could start talking to our customers again."

Read the whole story at Detroit Free-Press, Los Angeles Times »

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