New GM Chair: 'I Don't Know Anything About Cars'
Edward E. Whitacre Jr. the new chairman of GM admitted that he knows nothing about the auto industry.
“I don’t know anything about cars,” Whitacre, 67, said in a Tuesday interview, Bloomberg said. “A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I’m not that old, and I think the business principles are the same.”
Whitacre spent 43 years at what is now AT&T, turning the telephone giant into a diversified telecommunications company. (Sort of sound like what GM has to do?) He has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering, the discipline of efficiency studies.
Sure, what Whitacre said is funny. You can write a lot of punch lines off his quote. Hahaha! The new guy running GM doesn't know anything about cars! Good thing they didn't ask him to take over the nuclear power industry! Hahaha!
But the truth of it is, he doesn't need to know about cars and what he needs to know, he can learn.
The cynical line of reasoning coming out of this says: GM was run by "car guys" for 100 years and look where that got them. It's a good idea to bring in an outsider.
But the smarter line of reasoning goes like this: GM is a large manufacturing and distribution business. It may as well make microchips as microwave ovens as widgets as cars. What it makes is incidental to how it makes them, and how it sells them.
And that's what Whitacre is there to do: Help turn the new GM into an efficient, profitable maker of cars.
You don't have to know what a dual overhead cam is to do that.
June 10, 2009; 1:47 PM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: AT&T, Edward Whitacre, GM
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