The theory goes that if 1,000 monkeys typed for 1,000 years, one of them could recreate the work of William Shakespeare. It is a bit like that in the GM (GM) executive suite.
As The Wall Street Journal points out, Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM, has kept his job while the firm’s stock has dropped. 83%. The paper writes that he “hasn’t figured out how to turn GM’s quality gains into a compelling marketing story.” He was also Mr. SUV in the years that small trucks were selling well. GM didn’t have a significant line of cars to help it in the current crisis.
The facile answer about how Wagoner is still in his seat is that no one else with any skill wants the job. Turning around a company which may already be at death’s door is not an attractive proposition. Compared to many other big companies, GM does not pay that well.
The other aspect to the Wagoner longevity puzzle is that the board at GM may say that a falling tide has dropped all boats. Wagoner is part of a larger system where rising gas prices have killed off the car business, at least for now.
Over at Honda (HMC), there is no such talk. They sell a number of fuel-efficient cars. The company even markets SUVs and pick-ups, but most of them have small engines.
Wagoner would not last a day at Honda.
Douglas A. McIntyre
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