GM Swaps CEOs After Stellar Second Quarter

Outgoing Chairman Whitacre said he would leave, but few expected it so soon

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Hot on the heels of terrific second-quarter profits, GM is switching CEOs, swapping in board member and relative outsider Dan Akerson for current chairman Ed Whitacre. What's going on here? The move has taken everyone by surprise: business journalists are scrambling to figure out the new chief's background and the possible effect of the switch.

  • Auto-Industry Outsider, Government Insider  A Detroit News editorial points out that Akerson, like the highly successful Whitacre before him, is an outsider. But there are plenty of immediate underlings with enough experience to counteract that. The bigger problem is that "Akerson is one of the trustees appointed by the Obama administration and that will make it difficult for GM to shake the Government Motors label."
  • How This Could Be a Good Move  "Not unlike the economy in general," writes Peter Lauria at The Daily Beast, "there's a danger that GM's recovery could be a false one, with its recent success leading to a temptation to fall back on old ways of thinking. ...  In many ways, elevating Akerson ...  is a hedge against that." He adds that current chief Whitacre "saw first-hand how Akerson built Nextel Communications from a company with less than $200 million in revenue before his arrival in 1996 to more than $3 billion by the time of his departure three years later."
  • Take Comfort: He's Got a Decent Car  Autoblog is on this story, Steven Ewing poring over Akerson's resume before John Neff turns up something he hopes will be more useful to readers than knowing that the mystery-man Akerson has decent "business chops" and can clearly "run a lemonade stand": he drives a Cadillac CTS. At long last, something Autoblog folks can sink their teeth into:
Finally, we're told that Mr. Akerson's first car was an MGB roadster, which he quickly traded in for a 1970 Oldsmobile Cutlass. Now, we don't have confirmation on which Cutlass he had, and it makes a difference. The 1970 Cutlass was nothing special, unless you're talking about the 442, which was a legitimate muscle car. The fact that Akerson first had an MGB makes us hopeful that he is a car guy after all and that the Olds in question was the 442... or at least was powered by a Rocket V8 of some sort.

Does the CEO of General Motors need to be a car guy? Not really. ...  Still, enthusiasts might take comfort in the fact that the man running one of this industry's most important companies knows his way around a four-barrel carb.
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