Behind the Wheel with Phil Lebeau

GM CFO Hiring Sets Roadmap for Automaker's Future

Chris Liddell
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Let's be clear, Chris Liddell is not being hired JUST to be General Motors CFO.

Sure, he'll get that title and hold that job for several months, but his future at GM will go way beyond overseeing the company's financial operations.

Liddell has the look and feel of an accomplished executive GM Chairman Ed Whitacre could see as the perfect CEO for General Motors.

Is he an outsider with a fresh perspective? Yes.

Does he have experience running a global corporation? Yes.

Does he have extensive operational expertise? Yes.

Is he the kind of guy from outside the auto industry who could transform GM? Maybe.

On paper and in terms of corporate experience, Liddell has everything Whitacre wants. Plus, he brings something else: A hunger to run his own company and show he can do it. Remind you of anyone else?

When Alan Mulally showed up at Ford he brought the same craving. He wasn't going to get the CEO job at Boeing and was too ambitious to stay in the same job when he knew he could be the main man somewhere else. Three years later, he's the toast of Detroit, the auto industry, and the business world as a whole.

So will Liddell be as effective at General Motors? There's no way to know until he gets in, gets going and we see how he changes a company trying to re-define itself. Not all outsiders work. Look at Ron Zarella at General Motors in the late 90's and early 2000's. His brand management philosophy leads GM down a path that resulted in the Pontiac Aztek. Enough said.

Welcome to Detroit Mr. Liddell. It's not as picturesque as Seattle. But as Mr. Mulally found when he moved from the Pacific Northwest, Motown can be beautiful place if you make the right choices.


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