Rick Wagoner is stepping down

Apparently, the Obama administration has asked Rick Wagoner to step down as part of his deal with the administration:

The chairman and chief executive of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, is resigning, just hours before President Obama was expected to unveil his rescue plans for G.M. and the ailing American auto industry, a person close to the decision said Sunday.

Mr. Wagoner was asked to step down, and agreed to do so, as part of G.M.'s restructuring agreement with the Obama administration, according to an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal announcement has not been made yet.

Rick Wagoner is no managerial genius, but I'm not sure this will actually help much.  GM is caught in the jaws of its own structural problems--labor costs, yes, but also its corporate culture, its legacy physical plant, and so forth.  Perhaps most perniciously, GM is the victim of a brain drain--it's difficult to recruit top talent to a dying firm, especially when it's located in a dying industry.

On the other hand, it can hardly hurt.  And the symbolism, both to the taxpayer and the employees, is important.  GM can't be given vast sums without some visible sign of serious change.  Let's hope the new CEO actually brings some, rather than providing window dressing for a continuation of business as usual.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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