DETROIT – While Ed Whitacre has been General Motors chief executive only since late Tuesday, he’s been sizing up the company and its workers since coming on board in July as chairman.
That became evident on Friday when he announced management changes that he said would realign leadership duties to help the company meet its mission to design, build and sell the world’s best cars and trucks.
“I want to give people more responsibility and authority deeper in the organization and then hold them accountable,” Whitacre said in a statement.
Mark Reuss, whose father was once president of GM, will take over responsibility for GM’s North American operations, and Susan Docherty, the first female executive to rise to the level of top sales executive at GM, will also see added responsibilities.
Bob Lutz loses responsibilities for marketing and communication, but stays as vice chairman, acting as an adviser on design and global product.
The announcements capped a week of yet more dramatic change for GM.
Whitacre on Tuesday became the company’s third CEO of 2009 after the resignation of Fritz Henderson. Henderson, a 25-year GM veteran, had taken the post when President Barack Obama’s auto task force fired Rick Wagoner from the post in advance of the government leading GM through a 40-day bankruptcy reorganization.
The government reorganization included replacing the majority of GM’s board of directors with new people, including Whitacre as chairman. Whitacre has been meeting with employees at all levels of the company, asking them tough questions about how GM is doing.
Whitacre told employees about the changes during a presentation at the Warren Technical Center.
During the presentation, according to people who saw it, Whitacre laid out his vision for GM: to design, build and sell the world’s greatest vehicles.
To do that, Whitacre talked about reaching that vision through:
•Leading in advanced technology and quality vehicles.
•Driving more responsibility and authority down into the organization and holding people accountable.
•Creating positive, lasting relationships with customers, dealers, unions, employees, suppliers and the community.
“He was extremely engaging,” a person at the event said. “People were very eager to meet him. … There was genuine surprise and positive impressions that he did this so … fast.”