Whitacre Said to Reassign Lutz, Put Girsky in an Advisory Role

Whitacre Said to Reassign Lutz, Put Girsky in an Advisory Role

 

By David Welch, Katie Merx and Jeff Green

 

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) — General Motors Co. Chairman

Whitacre, who took on the chief executive officer job on an interim basis Dec. 1 after the board ousted

Whitacre, the 68-year-old former chairman of

"I want us to have a clear plan of what we’re going to do," Whitacre said Dec. 2 in an employee broadcast.

Today’s announcement may show whom Whitacre trusts to be part of the team that helps him lead the company, one person briefed on the plan said.

Whitacre may change the jobs of less than half of the 25 top executives, seeking more accountability for results, said one person briefed on the plan, who wouldn’t give additional detail. Whitacre is not expected to fire any more managers, said two people briefed on the announcement.

Employee Broadcast

GM has scheduled an employee broadcast for 9 a.m. Detroit time, spokeswoman

"We’re not out to eliminate any more jobs, we’re not out to change the world, we’re just out to sell a lot more cars and make money," Whitacre told employees Dec. 2, saying he wanted more of them to "have more responsibility" and "for all of us to have accountability."

Lutz, 77, who said Dec. 2 the company was "saddened" by Henderson’s ouster, met with Whitacre at 10 a.m. yesterday to discuss his changing role, people familiar with that meeting said. Lutz left that meeting pleased, people familiar with the discussions said. His new duties will involve advising on product development, one person said.

Delayed Retirement

Lutz agreed July 10 to delay a planned retirement as head of the automaker’s product-development organization to lead GM’s sales and marketing operations.

The former Marine fighter pilot has held key positions at each major U.S. automaker during a 47-year career. He had guided GM’s global product development and held other management roles since he rejoined the company in September 2001.

Girsky, president of New York-based advisory firm S.J. Girsky & Co., represents the United Auto Workers union on GM’s board. He is a former Morgan Stanley equity analyst and a union and automotive adviser and previously had been an adviser to Henderson’s predecessor,

Calling Customers

Whitacre has directed Reuss, the engineering boss, and his staff to call every customer who initiates the return of a GM vehicle through the automaker’s 60-day money-back guarantee program. Starting in November, the executives have been asking customers about their reasons and what they purchased instead, Reuss told reporters last month.

Henderson, 51, was asked to resign after eight months on the job as the board concluded he hadn’t done enough to fix GM’s finances and culture, people familiar with the matter said. He became CEO in March as the former General Motors Corp. slid into bankruptcy June 1 and emerged 40 days later as General Motors Co.

GM said today it will transfer a 1 percent stake in its China passenger-car venture to partner SAIC Motor Corp. while forming a new venture with the Shanghai-based company to sell low-cost vehicles in India. GM agreed to transfer the stake in Shanghai General Motors Co. to SAIC, China’s biggest carmaker, the companies said in a joint statement.

GM also plans to take over its Canadian carmaking venture with Suzuki Motor Corp., in its second exit this year from a partnership with a Japanese automaker. Suzuki agreed to sell its entire 50 percent stake in Cami Automotive Inc. to GM, the Shizuoka prefecture-based company said in a statement. In June, GM abandoned a car-production venture with Toyota Motor Corp. in Fremont, California.

Ed Whitacre will announce new duties for Vice Chairman Bob Lutz and name director Stephen Girsky as an adviser as part of a management overhaul today, people familiar with the plans said. Fritz Henderson, will also appoint new leaders for European operations and for sales and marketing, said one person, who asked not to be identified because the plans haven’t been announced. Mark Reuss, vice president of GM global engineering, will get an expanded role, two people said. AT&T Inc., is pushing GM to be more nimble and to hold employees accountable after it restructured its balance sheet and dealer network in a $50 billion, U.S.-backed bankruptcy this year. The Detroit-based automaker was criticized by President Barack Obama’s automotive task force for its bureaucratic culture and inadequate financial controls. Renee Rashid-Merem said. She wouldn’t discuss the contents of the presentation or comment on potential changes. The new structure was developed in a four-hour meeting Dec. 2, one person said. Rick Wagoner. He will remain on the board, said a person familiar with the matter.

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