Stephen Foley: GM is on the road at last

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The Independent Online

US Outlook: Ed Whitacre may or may not be "a selfish piece of shift", as a certain Sarah Henderson angrily mistyped into Facebook in the hours after Fritz Henderson was ousted as General Motors chief executive. Whatever he is, the GM chairman is certainly right.

The company's culture has been one of complacency and drift for longer than anyone in its upper echelons can remember. Mr Henderson was promoted to run the company in March not because he was the best man to introduce the necessary shake-up, but because he was the guy in the next room when the Obama administration fired his boss, Rick Wagoner.

Mr Whitacre, the telecoms industry veteran in charge at GM since July, is applying some much-needed shock therapy, and he was continuing to do it yesterday by promoting younger executives into powerful new positions.

Bob Lutz, the 77-year-old design guru who has reached untouchable status within the company, was stripped of his ill-fitting marketing responsibilities and made a special adviser to the chairman. All the signs are that Mr Whitacre will rely more heavily on another of his new advisers, Stephen Girsky, a former Merrill Lynch analyst.

It's a start. The real challenge comes with the search for a new chief executive. GM should follow Ford's lead when it selected Alan Mulally from Boeing, and look outside the car industry all together. Now that really would be a shock.

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