Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM's Musical Chairs Still Looking For The Right Song

GM Headquarters

The leadership changes at GM keep coming.

The latest, two new people running Chevrolet as well as Buick/GMC are out.

One has been replaced, the other not yet.

It's hardly a surprise, given the culture change Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre is leading at GM.

And to be honest, I think these types of changes will continue for some time to come.

First, the latest moves.

The head of Chevy, Brent Dewar is leaving the company and will be replaced by longtime GM exec Jim Campbell. This move is understandable since Dewar was widely viewed within GM as a "Henderson man," an exec who rose up through the ranks at GM with former CEO Fritz Henderson. In fact, it was Henderson who appointed Dewar to run Chevy last summer. You know how these things go. In any corporation, when you are viewed as being part of someone's camp and that person leaves, it becomes tough for you to stay. Dewar's replacement Jim Campbell has been with GM since 1988 and most recently was in charge of GM fleet and commercial operations.

Meanwhile, Michael Richards has resigned as the head of Buick/GMC after just 8 days on the job. Richards' departure is not viewed as a major loss since he barely had any time to make his mark on Buick and GMC. Richards was new to GM after spending much of his career at Ford.

So will we see more leadership changes at GM? I think so.

Two things are in happening at GM right now. First, Ed Whitacre and the GM board are making good on their promise to change the leadership of GM and to bring in outsiders. Many of the people who have risen through the ranks in the last 3 or 4 years are longtime GM executives who spent much of their career under the leadership of Rick Wagoner, Fritz Henderson, and the GM of the 90's and 2000's. Does it mean all of these executives must go? No. But it does mean those executives will have to learn a new way of doing things, and learn it quick.

That's the second thing in play. Whitacre wants results fast. He will not be content with executives who set goals for incremental change. On his web chat with reporters on Tuesday Whitacre was asked how long executives would have to show results before they could be replaced. His answer, "Not long." All of this means that those who are now in charge of Chevy, or Cadillac, or sales, or marketing, or any other division within GM better show Whitacre and the board they will, deliver and deliver quickly. It won't be easy. Then again, changing a century old company is never easy.


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