Reports: GM CEO Rick Wagoner To Step Down
JACKI LYDEN, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Jacki Lyden. Big news in the struggling auto business today, reports that the chief executive of General Motors, Rick Wagoner, will resign.
Wagoner has run the biggest of the big-three automakers for eight years. NPR's Frank Langfitt is with us now. Frank, we're seeing these reports. Does this look like it's really happening?
FRANK LANGFITT: Hi, Jacki. We don't have official confirmation, but I have spoken with someone at the company. They are not denying it, and they said that there will be an announcement in the morning, and of course that's when President Obama will be talking about this, as well.
So it's looking more and more likely that this is the case, that Mr. Wagoner is going to be leaving the company.
LYDEN: We just heard from our own newscasters that the White House might have asked him to step down. Do you know anything about that?
LANGFITT: Well, what's really interesting is the timing of this. President Obama's going to speak tomorrow to the nation about how to really restructure these companies. We're talking about, of course, General Motors and Chrysler, which have taken in the neighborhood of $17 billion of taxpayer money.
It's clear that what the president will say is he wants more cut. These companies are not doing enough yet to restructure as he's asked them to do, and one of the things about Mr. Wagoner. He's a very talented and bright guy, but there may be a concern that he's not the right man to make these changes at General Motors.
He has been there a very long time. He came up through the company, and some outside critics have felt that he is too close to the culture of the company to actually make the real tough decisions to make General Motors viable for the future.
LYDEN: He had the support of Chrysler's board. What do you think the reaction is going to be to this in the broader auto industry?
LANGFITT: You know, I think in one sense, it's always shocking. The auto industry is very close-knit in the upper Midwest and certainly around the Detroit area. Rick Wagoner has been with the company for a very long time.
He's been its public face, and I'm sure that people in Detroit are kind of shocked by this because, particularly in the Detroit and the Michigan area, these people, even the troubles that they've had in the car companies, they are seen still to some degree as royalty. So this will be a big hit.
That said, in Michigan, in the Detroit area, there have been long-time complaints about the companies and their ability to really compete and control their costs.
LYDEN: Frank, do you think the White House is getting tougher with the auto industry?
LANGFITT: I think we're going to find that out tomorrow. It's very interesting. There was a deadline set for Tuesday to basically prove that these companies are viable, that they deserve more taxpayer money, and clearly President Obama is going to say that they need to do a lot more.
I think that he may provide some more funding for them with a tighter deadline.
What's certainly clear is this can't go on forever. These companies need to really restructure, and they can't continue to just get taxpayer money going forward and on.
LYDEN: NPR's Frank Langfitt. Thanks so much for joining us, Frank.
LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Jacki.
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