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Can GM Change?

GM auto dealership with sign.
GM auto dealership with sign.

If you've read this blog for some time you've heard me say the easiest part of GM's bankruptcy will be filing the motions to cut dealers, shed plants, erase liabilities. And as always, don't take my use of the term "easy" to mean there is not a lot of pain that goes hand in hand with severing ties with thousands of people who have been part of the GM family for decades. There is plenty of pain.

Still, the fact is, companies don't survive bankruptcy because of what they cut, but because they change what is kept.

For GM CEO Fritz Henderson, this means turning the fabled but often lumbering auto maker into a nimble and hungry car company. If that's going to happen, I have one piece of advice for Mr. Henderson: Run! Start moving as fast as you can Fritz.

Henderson doesn't have to re-invent the wheel at GM. He has many great assets, brands, and people to work with as GM re-builds itself. From the Chevy brand to the design staff under Ed Welburn to the technology going into the new Volt, GM has some solid pieces to build around. But as the company has said in its new commercials, it needs to do more. Unspoken in all of this is the big challenge for Henderson and his leaders. GM has to change its corporate culture.

That won't be easy. It never is when you have 100 year old company. In many ways bankruptcy will help. It's a shock to the system, and one that should ripple through every person in that company. GM must become a leaner and meaner company. Gone are the days when GM could afford to say, "Well, we've always done it that way.". And yes, I have heard that phrase from many General Motors employees over the years.

Fritz knows how fast he has to move to change his company. So do his top lieutenants. And if they start to forget, GMs new board of directors will be there to drive the point home. The new directors (half the board) picked by the Federal Government will be put in place with one mantra: push this company to get healthy as quickly as possible. The directors will be outsiders who are not beholden to GM execs or outdated ideas of how GM should be run.

The clock is ticking. It won't be long until GM emerges from bankruptcy, and when it does, Fritz Henderson will have face his toughest test.

- Ford Motor

- General Motors

- Toyota Motor

- Nissan

- Honda Motor

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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