Retired Lutz critical of Wagoner’s GM tenure in book

Retired Lutz critical of Wagoner’s GM tenure in book
Wed, Jun 5

Bob Lutz’s book is the first by a GM insider that criticizes Wagoner’s tenure.Retired auto

industry executive Bob Lutz says former General Motors chief executive Rick Wagoner wasn’t the wartime leader GM needed to run the company and was “too nice” to get the job done.

Lutz, whom Wagoner named GM vice chairman of product development in 2001, offers sharp criticism of the GM CEO in his new book, “Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership.” He compares Wagoner, who was forced out by the Obama administration in March 2009, to a character in “The Thin Red Line”: a Marine captain who decides a hill can’t be taken without sacrificing a large number of troops. He is deposed by a battalion commander who neutralizes the enemy after losing a few men.

“In many ways, Rick Wagoner was that captain,” Lutz, a retired Marine, writes in the book due out today, published by Portfolio/Penguin. “A magnificent human being, Rick was simply too nice, too introspective, and too thoughtful in many of his actions to see the company through the turbulence of 2008-09.”

Wagoner, who joined GM 1977, was CEO from 2000 through March 2009, and hasn’t given any on-the-record interviews since he left GM. He chairs the Duke Board of Trustees, and is a director at the Washington Post Co., Rivian Automotive

and Aleris International Inc., an Ohio-based producer of aluminum products. He also is a member of AEA Investors Global Advisory Board and advises a number of start-ups and early stage ventures.

Lutz’s book is the first by a GM insider that criticizes Wagoner’s tenure.

While praising much of Wagoner’s leadership, Lutz — who retired from GM in 2010 — says “Wagoner was the perfect ‘peacetime’ CEO. His strategy was impeccable and he should have been more successful, but bad timing, bad luck and the weight of still-unexpurgated GM costs and cultural traits provided his undoing. I hated to see him go.”

Steve Harris, a former GM spokesman, defended Wagoner. “I think history has and will continue to prove that much of what Rick did and other leadership there prior to the bankruptcy was exactly what needed to be done,” Harris said. “Certainly, the current product renaissance that people want to give GM credit for began under Rick.”

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