At 4:45 pm this afternoon, General Motors Chairman of the Board Ed Whitacre announced that the Board of Directors had accepted the resignation of chief executive officer Fritz Henderson.
Whitacre will serve as the acting CEO until a successor is hired. Henderson had been on the job less than a year after the resignation of longtime CEO Rick Wagoner.
The Board will immediately embark on a search for a successor, offering them the opportunity to bring in someone from outside the auto industry. Ford Motor Co. did the same thing four years ago, when it hired Alan Mulally from Boeing.
"We all agreed changes needed to be made," Whitacre said in a very short press conference. "We are united and committed to the task we have at hand," which is to "accelerate our progress" toward profitability and repaying the U.S. and Canadian taxpayers who have funded this spring's GM bailout after its 40-day bankruptcy.
Whitacre took pains to "assure all our employees, dealers, suppliers, union partners, and most of all our customers" that GM's "daily business operations continue as normal." He offered brief, cursory thanks to Henderson for his "leadership and years of service to GM."
Whitacre did not take questions. A spokesperson later added only that the Board and Henderson had agreed that it was time to make changes. Despite repeated questions from the press, no reasons were given aside from a brief mention of the desire for a "fresh start".
Henderson had been scheduled to give the keynote address at the Los Angeles Auto Show tomorrow morning; that task will now fall to Bob Lutz, GM's former product czar who is now running the company's marketing.