The Land Rover Writer

Monday, March 30, 2009

Peugeot Gets It

US automotive industry observers, and the industry's political supporters, are mourning the forced removal of Rick Wagoner as the head of GM.

Although GM's share of the US marketed has fallen by 50% since he took over at the turn of this century, and the corporation's product offerings consistently demonstrated they appealed to fewer and fewer purchases, he had to be asked to leave as condition of continued federal support for the corporation.

It makes you wonder what the Board of Directors was thinking. Of course, most Boards wind up representing the interests of senior management; that's how you get invited to join a major Board. GM's Board has promised that next year, "you'll see a majority of new members."

PSA, the parent corporation of French automakers Peugeot and Citroen, removed their CEO this weekend because under his leadership, the automaker lost over 340 million Euros, or over $400 million. Their Board of Directors did not need a French government official to participate in a commission review of the company; they saw the existing leadership wasn't producing the desired results. Their new CEO comes from Corus Steel, so he might bring a fresh perspective to with the excellent engineering already on board with the company.

BTW, Corus is owned by Tata, the new parent for Land Rover and Jaguar.

No firing makes either Rick Wagoner or Christian Streiff reprehensible. No one should ever doubt the enormous energy and commitment it takes to run a giant corporation. Neither man went to his office each day looking for the easy way out. Automotive manufacturing is not an industry for the faint-hearted or intellectually deficient. The Donald Trumps of the automotive world might be entertaining to watch but they don't produce any better results than the Donald himself.

That said, the industry cannot pretend that its future operations will resemble the past ones. GM under Wagoner looked an awful lot like GM in the 1980's, and change was unlikely to occur on his watch.

Felicitations to PSA's Board for moving to make change on their own; let's hope that they're not just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.