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Oracle of Delphi

Perot hopes Whitacre has better luck fixing GM

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By Bernie Woodall

DETROIT (Reuters) - The last time General Motors had a plain-talking Texan on its board of directors who was critical of the way the automaker did business, GM sent Ross Perot packing.

Perot of Dallas said he hopes that Ed Whitacre of San Antonio won't run into the institutional stonewalling the billionaire investor faced in the mid-1980s when, as a member of GM's board, he challenged then-CEO and chairman Roger B. Smith.

"I disagreed with what they were doing," Perot told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "Then suddenly, they just didn't want anybody around to point out what we needed to do. They decided to get rid of the nuisance."

Whitacre, 68, became acting CEO of General Motors Co GM.UL when Fritz Henderson, 51, abruptly resigned on Tuesday. Whitacre has been serving as GM board chairman since July.

Perot, who became a household name in 1992 as a third-party presidential candidate, served on GM's board from 1984 to 1986 after it acquired EDS, a data processing company he founded.

Perot, 79, said he did not know whether GM's corporate culture was as insulated and aloof now as it was in the 1980s.

"The people at the working level wanted to change the culture and the people running the company at the time did not want to change it," Perot said.

Perot hoped Whitacre would have the wisdom not to make the same mistakes he spotted among GM executives two decades ago, when he observed that very few senior leaders of the company took the time to visit factories.

In his short tenure as GM, Whitacre has made surprise visits to plants where he has spoken with workers.

The first time Perot hosted GM executives at EDS in Texas after the acquisition, they were shocked, he said.

"We went to lunch and we got in line and they almost fainted," Perot said. "They couldn't believe I ate in the cafeteria and that I had to go to the back of the line."

They were also surprised how good the food was, and that's the point, Perot said. When company executives are treated the same way as the frontline workers, quality rises, he said.

"It's very important in any company to have a very close relationship with the people who make your product, and those are the factory workers who make the cars," Perot said.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/GCA-Autos/idUSTRE5B20HS20091203

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I hope he has a better time. I think he removed the obstacles of opposition. This hopefully is the beginning of better change. I believe Whitacre was putting everyone on notice by making an example of of Fritz Henderson. Things have to change.

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I hope he has a better time. I think he removed the obstacles of opposition. This hopefully is the beginning of better change. I believe Whitacre was putting everyone on notice by making an example of of Fritz Henderson. Things have to change.

I think you're right. He had to show that if they don't get the changes they want, then the board will make their own changes. Hopefully Whitacre can do a good job until Henderson's replacement is found. The new appointments this morning seem like a step in the right direction.

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I think you're right. He had to show that if they don't get the changes they want, then the board will make their own changes. Hopefully Whitacre can do a good job until Henderson's replacement is found. The new appointments this morning seem like a step in the right direction.

In total agreement with you. I do like the changes he made today. If you noticed he used people in their area of expertise. He also is an outsider, and there is accountability too.

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In total agreement with you. I do like the changes he made today. If you noticed he used people in their area of expertise. He also is an outsider, and there is accountability too.

it seems so obvious, yet it took so long to happen...

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it seems so obvious, yet it took so long to happen...

Yes, but you had years of legacy GM people running things for decades. Go back to Roger Smith. An outsider came in and wiped them out one by one. They either resigned or retired. We all want to see GM succeed. We have been rooting for GM when we saw the obvious. GM needed this, and Ford already got it. No excuses and do something. Many knew for years what was wrong.

Pontiac and Oldsmobile should still be here. All the other baggage should have never happened. It was sad many of the people and the damage they did. It took its toll.

I like the new management team lineup and the big changes. Lets see what they can do.

What I hope is the change how management is treated from everyone else. This is a new day.

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I'm still not sold on Whitacre...

Part of me wants to like him because he is an outsider and appears to be a great business man.

But part of me still thinks he's just in this largely for the ink and still has NO idea how the auto industry works. I mean, really, 90 days to exit bankruptcy and show positive results? That's an impossible task for anyone. Not to mention, why did Whitacre need to be the "face of GM" in those commercials? Joe public doesn't know him from Adam.

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I'm still not sold on Whitacre...

Part of me wants to like him because he is an outsider and appears to be a great business man.

But part of me still thinks he's just in this largely for the ink and still has NO idea how the auto industry works. I mean, really, 90 days to exit bankruptcy and show positive results? That's an impossible task for anyone. Not to mention, why did Whitacre need to be the "face of GM" in those commercials? Joe public doesn't know him from Adam.

I understand, but that is why he kept Bob Lutz around as a "senior advisor" and surrounded himself with people who know what is going on. That is why Nick R. is over GM Europe and other people like Mark R. are now president of GM North America. The only appointment that scares me is Susan D.

So far the board has made good decisions since they changed the board. We almost lost Opel if Fritz had his way. He was not moving fast enough to make any change.

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Right. I like Whitacre a lot. He's about goal-setting and results. Not excuses. This is GM's last chance.

I understand, but that is why he kept Bob Lutz around as a "senior advisor" and surrounded himself with people who know what is going on. That is why Nick R. is over GM Europe and other people like Mark R. are now president of GM North America. The only appointment that scares me is Susan D.

So far the board has made good decisions since they changed the board. We almost lost Opel if Fritz had his way. He was not moving fast enough to make any change.

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