GM Presses Eject Button On Henderson
Few can rival General Motors at reinventing the wheel—as metaphor, that is.
Earlier this year, the wheels finally came off the auto maker. It
wheeled out a new chief executive, former chief financial officer Fritz
Henderson. His subsequent wheeling and dealing to offload subsidiaries
like Adam Opel foundered. Now, with his resignation announced late
Tuesday following a board meeting, it looks like Mr. Henderson has been
thrown under the wheels.
Divisions between Mr. Henderson and the board had appeared over issues
like the U-turn on selling Opel and the prospects for a GM relisting.
In one sense, Mr. Henderson's departure is encouraging. Its balance
sheet cleansed, the priority at GM was cultural change. Yet the
company's senior ranks remain the preserve of veterans. Product-quality
issues remain a concern, and the company, like Chrysler, has even
started ladling out incentives to customers in a troubling echo of
Bringing in new blood is, to be fair, pretty hard when major shareholder
Uncle Sam is capping pay offers. And that is why any encouragement taken
from Mr Henderson's resignation dissipates quickly. The manner of his
going highlights the work still required, even as executives must
appease political paymasters. Clearly, GM's road to recovery remains long.
One company that can take encouragement is Ford Motor. GM's board must
wish it could find its own Alan Mulally: an outsider brought in as CEO
who has steered Ford skillfully thus far. Ford knows its big Detroit
rival remains in disarray. That should mean less competition for
customers and, with a GM initial public offering looking farther off
than ever, less competition for investor dollars.