Who Do You Want Running Your Car Company?

Dan Akerson at a GM Town Hall meeting

We thought it might be enlightening to look at the CEOs of three of the largest car companies so you can decide whom you want to replace Henrik Fisker (Monday joke, of course). We didn’t include Alan Mulally, because most of you know his record at Ford.

Dan Akerson, 63, came to General Motors in 2010 after five years in the Navy and wide business experience, mostly as head of global buyout for the Carlyle Group and in telecommunications. He had a track record in private equity but not in manufacturing or autos.

So, despite coming in cold, Akerson is a turnaround guy and, according to most analysts, has done extremely well in bringing back GM from the dead, paying back government loans, and making saleable and respected product again.

It has been a dramatic transformation, one not without costs to those whom GM’s bankruptcy burned. Most of you know about the success of cars like the Chevy Cruze and the Buick Verano. The Volt has been a disappointment but was an experiment that may yet pay off.

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Mostly Gloom from Industry Big Shots

Carlos Ghosn

As the world economy sags (or sinks, some would say), the car czars are finally taking note. Pent-up demand has kept the big guys afloat, and so has China. But the European crisis and the endemic sickness of the U.S. economy are hard to ignore.

Looking at next year, Carlos Ghosn (above) forecasts “very great uncertainty for the time being.” The CEO of Renault and Nissan says customers are presently skeptical but not yet “defensive.”

Both his companies are currently doing well, but who would not be uneasy, given the signals from around the world, including slowing demand for cars in China?

Dan Akerson, the GM CEO, looks for flat U.S. sales in 2012. Like others, he “sees the EU crisis as the biggest threat to auto sales and to the global economy.” Akerson predicts 2012 light-vehicle sales will be similar in numbers (12.7 million) to this year’s.

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