By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
He'd never suggest it, since everybody around ousted General Motors boss Rick Wagoner says he's the most optimistic and professional guy they know. But there's a yarn in auto circles that Wagoner's rich Duke University roots—student, Blue Devil player, trustee, cheerleader—added to his woes in President Obama's eyes.
Why? How about because Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski panned Obama's NCAA picks that had Duke—correctly—not making the Final Four. "The Blue Devils get bounced from the tournament Thursday night, and you're asked to resign Friday? Not sure if Coach K's comments about the president's picks had anything to do with the ouster," says a friend. It probably didn't, and our tipster was just using the story to explain that despite a very bad week, Wagoner remained upbeat about his and GM's prospects as the company fights for its life. Right after getting the bad news from the White House, "he seemed in remarkably good spirits for a guy who was just asked to step down," says the insider.
We saw the same attitude recently when Wagoner took time from pitching Congress and the administration on GM's bailout plans to make a personal case to Whispers for the new V-6 Camaro. We asked the obvious question: Why go with the smaller engine when a V-8 is available for the muscle-car redux? "Close the doors, and promise not to tell anyone," Wagoner said. "Actually, from a drive and handling perspective, the V-6 feels a little bit better." It's a little cheaper, too, something he plans to remind his sons of as they seek a car now that Dad's driving off into the Detroit sunset. And they'd better not argue. "A Camaro,"he says, "was my first car, the cheapest car I could find."
Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR
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