Once, it seemed that if a General Motors executive died, there were at least five people who could step into the job without skipping a beat. It made GM powerful.
But it must be time for another round of musical chairs.
A few weeks ago, GM spirited a very bright lady away from Volkswagen to run Hummer advertising.
Then, last week, two more Chrysler executives left, to be replaced by a couple of Ford executives.
That used to be rare. It almost seemed that an unwritten law prohibited job hopping.
I recently had lunch with Don Hackworth, a GM veteran who is retiring.
His whole career was with General Motors, and he has the loyalty that is created by all those years with one employer. He worked hard for GM and probably never imagined working for Ford or Chrysler. He was a GM guy.
Nowadays, everyone seems to be fair game for the recruiters.
Once upon a time, there was a code that you didn't poach another car company's employees. Well, that rule went out the window several years ago.
Today, automakers have no compunction about stealing one another's best and brightest.
And when someone retires, it almost seems natural for the company to look outside for a replacement.
Working for a car company these days is like being a football coach. The chances of retiring with the same team are pretty slim.
I don't know what happened to all the middle management the automakers once had.
There was real pride in having homegrown talent that could move up the executive ranks and eventually take over.
Today, there is even a desire to look outside the industry for some magical talent, especially in the last decade as brand management has grown in reputation and importance.
The employment situation won't ever go back to the way it was.
Maybe it's too expensive to have a couple of backups for every position. Or maybe it's easier to look outside for the talent you need at a particular moment and try to recruit it from your competitor.
The job market is changing the way people look at their employers.
And it isn't for the better.