General Motors is back on track

John Smale tried an interesting experiment with the world's largest automotive manufacturer. In the early 1990s the General Motors chairman put finance folks in charge to stop the financial bleed-ing and turned the car company over to the new marketing guys who came from all over the map.

It didn't work. The finance guys probably saved the company, which was losing millions - no, billions - of dollars during those days. The board had broomed the top executives, and Jack Smith was brought in as CEO to put the company back on sound financial footing. He succeeded, but some would say that in getting GM a solid balance sheet, the finance guys forgot what business GM was in.

That has all changed.

The car guys are in charge. Gary Cowger, the new president of GM North America, is probably the perfect balance for Bob Lutz, the new chairman of GM North America. Cowger is a real automobile guy. He has worked everywhere, done everything and he knows his business.

Make no mistake: We're going to see more car folks pop up at GM from now on. Executives who have been waiting patiently are going to blossom.There will be a whole bunch of new executives whom you just might remember from earlier days.

It's a good team. Lutz is a great coach. And he has picked the right quarterback. There will be a lot of happy people at GM as they realize that cars are back in style.

And you have to take your hat off to Rick Wagoner, GM's youthful CEO. He understood what GM needs. Even if it seems as if he's diluting his own authority, he's doing the exact opposite. Wagoner will get the accolades when GM's stock price goes up, its market share improves and its customers (its dealers) are happy.

It will take a while. But these guys know what must be done and, more important, they know how to get it done.

It will be a lot of fun to watch General Motors get back to the basics: building cars and trucks in North America that people want to buy.

I'm amazed at the difference a few people and a few years make. Think about Chrysler four years ago and Ford and GM just a short year ago and take a look at them today.

What a difference.

Watch GM. It has the talent, and that talent is going to make a difference. It's about time.

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