General Motors, Good for America?

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General Motors CEO Ed Whitacre Announcing His Appointment That’s what self-appointed CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. is saying about the automotive giant, as it emerges from bankruptcy and looks to payback a $6.7B loan sooner than expected while cutting down its bailout debt.

Whitacre, who is chairman and was acting CEO after former chief Fritz Henderson was ousted in December, made the announcement of his permanent appointment at a press conference earlier this week.  The former ATT head honcho said the board picked him to run the day-to-day operations mainly because GM doesn’t need any more uncertainty.    

There are hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake here. No doubt the company is instrumental to the nation’s economy. While stability is a key to success for any organization, especially during a turnaround, GM needs a new mantra. While admirable, describing his new job as a “public service,” Whitacre actually is communicating more of the same old rhetoric: GM is a large, overrun behemoth with static brands.

Unlike Ford, CEO Alan Mulally seemed to transform the company giving it a new edge, while unloading a new breed of stylish vehicles. While financial conditions may be different for both companies, brand momentum seems to favor Ford.

Whether Whitacre can turnaround GM is a question that remains to be seen. It’s not only new cars that will aid its recovery, although that’s a key component for victory along with dealer support. GM however needs to send a message to consumers that the company has new ideas and new strategies for 2010. It needs to find away to become sexy again, whether or not it was ever sexy in the first place. More of the same language can only lead to GM’s demise, unless the company finds a way to reinvent itself. Otherwise, the largest U.S. auto maker will continue to move along slowly, along with its turnaround.

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