GM drives out chief executive after board pulls support

Chairman Ed Whiteacre to take charge of company until replacement is found

General Motors, the giant car company controlled by the US government, stunned its staff, dealers and suppliers last night by parting company with its chief executive Fritz Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the company.

Mr Henderson had been installed only in March after the Obama administration pushed the company through bankruptcy proceedings and fired the previous boss, Rick Wagoner, but as chief executive he never fully won the confidence of the board of directors under its assertive new chairman, Ed Whitacre.

In the end, Mr Henderson was fatally undermined when the board voted down his plan to sell GM's European operations, which include the Vauxhall brand, last month. Mr Whitacre clashed publicly with his chief executive about how quickly GM should return to the stock market and finally last week, the Swedish sportscar maker Koenigsegg, pulled out of a deal to buy Saab which Mr Henderson had spent six months negotiating.

Mr Whitacre summoned reporters to a hasty and brief conference call last night to announce that he would take day-to-day charge of the company until a new chief executive was found. There was no statement from Mr Henderson.

"Fritz has done a remarkable job in leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change," the chairman said. "While momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes needed to be made... we now need to accelerate our progress, which will also mean a return to profitability and repaying the American and Canadian taxpayers as soon as possible."

Mr Henderson, who celebrated his 61st birthday on Sunday, is the son of a lifelong GM sales manager in the company's Buick division and he joined the company himself as an analyst in its treasury department in 1984. He had been chief financial officer under Mr Wagoner.

Mr Whitacre, a telecoms industry veteran who turned AT&T into the largest carrier in the US, was lured out of retirement to head GM and he has inserted himself visibly into its efforts to portray a new face to shareholders, employees and consumers. He is personally fronting the latest GM television advertising campaign, highlighting areas where some of its brands compare favourably with the Asian manufacturers traditionally seen by consumers as being more reliable. "May the best car win," is his slogan. He is only the third person in 70 years to head the company without being a long-standing GM executive.

GM said last night that the decision on Mr Henderson's resignation had been taken by the board alone, and the Obama administration was only informed after the fact. The company also said it would spend just four more weeks talking to potential new buyers for Saab before making a decision on whether to wind up the brand.

The company is now embarking on what it calls an international search for a new chief executive, which could include candidates from outside the car industry, who might be better able to shake up GM's culture. Wall Street analysts have compared GM unfavourably with Ford, which hired Boeing executive Alan Mulally to run the company before the downturn began, and he is credited with keeping Ford – along among the big three Detroit-based manufacturers – out of bankruptcy.

Earlier yesterday, GM reported a fall of 2 per cent in its US vehicle sales in November, compared with the same month last year, though sales of its core Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet and GMC brands rose. GM executives said despite the sales decline, the company is on better footing than it was late in 2008, with fewer brands and models.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape