New book claims Obama tried to appoint Carlos Ghosn as GM CEO; GM also planned to leave Detroit

The US government made an attempt to install Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn as CEO of General Motors during the height of the motor industry crisis last year.

This is one of several claims in a new book by former Wall Street private equity financier Steve Rattner – the man who co-ordinated the government bailout of GM and Chrysler.

He reveals several hitherto-unknown details about the period, including a plan by GM bosses to move away from their base in Detroit.

When Rick Wagoner quit as GM Chairman and CEO in early 2009, he was replaced in the hotseat by Fritz Henderson. According to Rattner, though, the government wanted Ghosn to take the role, and tried to lure him away from his current job in charge of Renault-Nissan.

The Frenchman is said to have reacted to the approach with “deft demurral”.

The other main point of interest to come from the book centres around GM’s headquarters in Detroit, which Henderson wanted the company to quit in favour of a technical centre in Warren, situated a few miles north of the main city.

The Obama administration felt it necessary to step in and block the move, this despite its policy of not interfering with the running of the company. One of the president’s advisers is quoted as saying, “Are you out of your mind? Think what it would do to Detroit.”

Rattner also relates details of Obama’s apparent frustration, early on in his tenure, at the US motor industry’s inability to make products competitive with those produced by the likes of Toyota.

The president is said to have asked, “Why can’t they make a Corolla?” to which advisers replied, “We wish we knew.”

Ben Foulds

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8 September 2010

Ironic that Toyota shut their US plant in California making the Corolla in March 2010

8 September 2010

[quote sierra]making the Corolla [/quote]Hi Sierra (Not the movie) Fair comment.

The auto business is full of irony these days, but then, it always was plagued by it. Models and companies have come and gone over the decades, some with fanfares, some quietly. I guess the Corolla stands for a vehicle utterly dependable, that rarely lets you down, covers all your basic transportation needs, isn't wildly adventurous in the fashion stakes, is easy to service and cheap to run, embodying the kind of practical understatement many Americans like. I tested one over a week. It reminded me of a loyal friend of sound integrity you've known since college days who enjoys small talk but is ... just a little boring.

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