NEWSWEEK INTERVIEW: Rick Wagoner CEO of General Motors

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Feels 'Completely' Secure in His Job: 'I Know in the End, All of Us Are Going to be Judged on Accomplishments'

On Calls For 'New Blood' in GM Management: 'That Is So Simplistic ... That Would Be The Biggest Risk I've Ever Heard Of'

NEW YORK - April 2, 2006: General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner tells Newsweek's Detroit Bureau Chief Keith Naughton he is particularly annoyed by critical media coverage that fails to acknowledge any progress at the troubled company. "They talk about that we are not moving to address the problems," he tells Naughton in the April 10 issue (on newsstands Monday, April 3). "I want to say, 'Excuse me, what part of $15 billion in health care (cuts), 12 plants (closing), 30,000 people (cut), attrition programs, salaried health-care and retirement (cuts), salaried head-count reduction, a new sales and marketing strategy, advancing product programs-what part of that doesn't exhibit a sense of urgency in doing what matters?' What's frustrating to me is a lack of recognition of the progress."

In response to those who charge that because Wagoner grew up in GM culture he's incapable of the radical overhaul required and that new blood is needed, he says, "That is so simplistic. These are sophisticated problems with historical tails that run back 80, 90 years. The chance of someone coming in and understanding our business, making the right calls and doing them in cooperation with key constituencies like dealers and unions, is absolutely microscopic. That would be the biggest risk I've ever heard of."

So does Wagoner feel secure in his job? "Completely," he answers, "because I know in the end, all of us are going to be judged on accomplishments, whether we address issues and take advantage of opportunities. And I think we're moving on both fronts, frankly, pretty well. So I feel very confident."

Wagoner also responds to Jerry York's speech in which he said GM must go into "crisis mode." "It's easy to announce stuff. It's not so easy to do stuff, particularly if you can't do it yourself, if you've got to do it in cooperation or in conflict with unions, if you do it with Delphi, if you need partners to consider a partial sale of GMAC," says Wagoner. "What has been done in the last six months borders on unprecedented accomplishments and advances. This stuff didn't happen because someone decided on Jan. 15, why don't we do stuff? This stuff happens because we're working on it, we're ready to do it, we're talking to people and when we have it ready, we announce it."

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