Maybe it's time for a real election
Keith Crain is editor-in-chief of Automotive News.
General Motors CEO Dan Akerson is 63 and says he's still a few years away from retiring. But already there is speculation about who might replace him.
Before GM gets around to selecting another chairman and CEO, GM should have a new board, elected by all the shareholders, not just the administration that bailed out GM and kept it alive in bankruptcy.
The government-appointed board has already named two GM bosses. The board should change before it picks a third.
Former Wal-Mart CFO Thomas Schoewe, who was elected to the board last week, is the only new director since GM's initial public offering a year ago.
Of the other 11 GM directors, the Obama administration appointed 10, including Akerson and four carryovers from the old GM board. The 11th, Steve Girsky, was selected by the UAW. At the company's annual meeting last June, all 11 were elected to new terms by the shareholders, of which the federal government is still the largest.
Since the IPO, the federal government owns only about 32 percent of GM and the UAW's health care trust owns about 10 percent. The current GM board wasn't chosen by the new shareholders who risked their own money buying GM shares.
When a company the size of GM goes bankrupt, it puts into play a lot of scenarios.
GM's Chevrolet brand just celebrated its 100th anniversary. Imagine the financial shenanigans that went on during the early days of the automobile business. The company was bought and sold several times and when Billy Durant lost it for the final time, it fell under the control of DuPont. Later, Alfred Sloan created the juggernaut that became General Motors.
But all that has changed. It seems to all the world that GM has begun again. The past four years have been a traumatic time for everyone in the automobile industry, whether supplier, dealer or vehicle manufacturer.
But as the North American auto industry slowly emerges from its own challenges and the Big 3 have become the Detroit 3 with a Chrysler controlled by Fiat, the business and the companies have changed forever.
This might be the time for General Motors to lead the way with a new structure and new corporate governance and an independent board that accurately represents all the shareholders.
The company owes it to all the people -- retirees, bondholders, workers, suppliers, dealers -- who gave up everything so that GM could survive.
You can reach Keith Crain at firstname.lastname@example.org.