By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
The new head of General Motors, Fritz Henderson, won a strong endorsement from Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who heralded all the years the GM exec has worked at Detroit's No. 1 automaker. "This is a gentleman who has 25 years' experience. I mean, he started out at GM, he's still at GM, and now he's the CEO. This fellow is very optimistic. He's very enthusiastic. He believes that he's going to be able to do what has been required of him to do," LaHood said of Henderson, who he met with this week.
One problem, if the experience argument matters: The guy the administration ousted in the latest loan bailout, Rick Wagoner, had even more years at GM. He joined in 1977out of Harvard as an analyst in the treasurer's office. Henderson started in 1984.
LaHood, one of just two Republicans in Obama's cabinet, added that he liked Henderson because he has a good feel for GM—just like Wagoner. "I left the meeting feeling like GM is in very, very good hands with somebody who has a great deal of experience in the company, knows a lot of the employees, knows a lot about the American automobile industry," LaHood said at regular Christian Science Monitor breakfast with reporters.
He added that he expects Detroit to weather the financial storm despite massive losses and government loans. "I do. I have my fingers crossed" that the companies, specifically Chrysler, will survive. "Look, we can't let American auto manufacturing—they're too important to our economy and too important to the history of America and the tradition of America," he said.
Check out more Washington Whispers.