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Lutz And GM Managers Stunned by Henderson’s Departure

If you were shocked by the sudden resignation of GM CEO Fritz Henderson, imagine being in the General Motors management team.

Out here at the L.A. Auto Show GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told me the Henderson news caught him and other GM execs by surprise.

Lutz said, "This took us by surprise. It's something we would not have done, something we don't necessarily like, but our loyalty is to General Motors and to shareholders and the public that buys our cars."

When I asked Lutz if the GM managers had expressed these thoughts to Ed Whitacre, he said, "Well, now I think we're getting into internal discussions that I'd rather not get into and besides I can dodge that question easily by saying I left for LA before this whole thing hit, so I haven't really talked to anybody since it occurred."

The way Fritz Henderson left GM sends a clear message to all execs at the country's largest auto company: you better change and change fast or you won't be around long.

Chairman, and new CEO Ed Whitacre is hell bent on transforming GM's culture into one where the company moves quicker, takes bold steps, and above all does not tolerate complacency. In other words, gone are the days where incremental change was good enough at GM. Whitacre and the board want to instill the company with a private equity mentality where accountability and results are the primary drivers of whether you are doing your job.

For many GM execs this is a clear sign they better get in line with the boards vision, and above all produce results.

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Questions? Comments? BehindTheWheel@cnbc.com

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