I wouldn’t say that GM is re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic, but they did decide to change band leaders as the water is washing over the deck. The automaker announced today what industry wags had been chattering about for weeks; that chairman and CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. replaced head of communications Tom Kowaleski with his retired predecessor Steve Harris (pictured above).
GM is going through what I might call a bad stretch. Wagoner is fighting for his job as the share price has tanked, market share continues to slide, losses are piling up and too few new models are catching on. Kowaleski drew fire from some of my peers…www.autoextremist.com comes to mind. But, in truth, I always thought he was helpful and a fair critic and responder to my stuff. I wish him luck and good drinking (Tom is a wine enthusiast).
The deal is that a CEO under siege likes to have people with whom he feel comfortable, and Wagoner and former CEO Jack Smith hired Harris, who brought Kowaleski with him, after several disastrous years of lousey PR staffing in the 1990s. After Wagoner’s future sorts itself out (will he keep his job past 2006?), look for insider Tony Cervone to succeed Harris.