The “new GM” is here


The new General Motors Company has emerged from bankruptcy, and CEO Fritz Henderson is making plenty of changes.

Fritz Henderson’s remarks this morning on General Motors’ speedy exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy were a pretty sweeping condemnation of the old GM’s culture and structure.

His decision to sweep away entire layers of regional management, and eliminate the entire group running the North American business and taking charge himself, suggest there was a lot of redundancy.

Of course, the fact that GM is selling its Opel operations in Europe and will only retain a minority stake makes a coherent global structure more difficult. But Mr Henderson is making the best of a bad job by giving Nick Reilly the job of running international operations from Shanghai.

The theme of reducing the amount of time spent talking and prevaricating in meetings is common to GM and Ford, where Alan Mulally has made much of his effort to speed up decision-making.

Henderson also announced a new partnership with eBay to sell cars by auction online. Nobody seems to know precisely how this will work, but the symbolism is clear – GM will be innovative in the future with respect to all aspects of the car business.

Bob Lutz has also decided to stay on and postponed his retirement.

In addition to hailing the closure of the deal, chief executive Fritz Henderson outlined several changes to GM’s management, including the “un-retirement” of vice chairman Bob Lutz to oversee most creative work at the company, including global design, advertising and communications.

Lutz is a great car guy, so this is a good thing, but I wonder about putting him in charge of marketing. GM’s marketing in the past has been horrible. They wasted huge dollars on old-school sponsorships, and the have not been a leader online. GM has stated that it is more committed to online advertising, but it remains to be seen how much an old-school guy like Lutz understands new media.


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