Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

Whitacre Web Chat: A Few Comments Go A Long Way

Ed Whitacre
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One week after taking over the GM CEO job, Ed Whitacre finally took questions from reporters about the troubled automaker, his goals for the company, and the culture change he is leading at General Motors.

If you were hoping for long detailed answers that shed light into the strategy of Whitacre and the GM board, get ready to be disappointed.

In a 40-minute web chat Whitacre took 26 questions on everything ranging from market share goals (he has them but won't divulge the specific percentage) to what he's driving (CTS-V) to how important public sentiment is to GM management (very important according to Whitacre).

For reporters, sending and reading short text answers was frustrating. And for good reason. Whitacre gave few details; even less color about the culture change he's pushing at GM, and left those on the web chat longing for more.

That in itself is the story of Ed Whitacre the CEO.

While turning Southwestern Bell into A, T & The didn't give a ton of interviews. He wasn't a hermit, but it was clear his style is less about working the press and more about simply getting the company to work. Why say a lot, when a few short, well-worded answers will suffice?

Take Whitacre's answer to the question, "How long do newly appointed execs have to show results before they are replaced?" He could have given a longer answer and shared more details with us, but he simply answered, "Not Long :-)"

It was a succinct answer that says everything about how Whitacre will run GM, at least in the near term. He will likely say little to the public, and instead deflect many of the questions to top executives like Bob Lutz, Mark Reuss, and Susan Docherty. Whitacre has made it clear talk is cheap, and results are what matter. And right now, he is only interested in results.

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