Dr. Guillotine could have been a consultant to the auto mobile industry; the present motto seems to be "off with their heads."
I've never seen as many drive-outs, push-outs or jump-outs. It isn't just losers that are losing; successful execs at successful companies are quitting or being pushed out, too.
You know about these changes, but instead of thinking of them as individual moves, think of them as some otherworld trend, as in the X-Files. Try to make sense out of it, and what it will mean to the companies.
Now let's look at the scorecard:
EuropeAG: Bernd Piechets-rieder, the chief executive of BMW AG, was fired in February, and Wolf-gang Reitzle, his No.2 and the product man, quit when he wasn't made boss to replace Bernd. What happened? The board was unhappy with the losses the British Rover unit was running up. Bernd's policy of "Don't-be-a-brute-to-the-Brits" was blamed, but then they didn't want Wolfgang's shut-most-of-it-down, either.
You don't lose such talent without paying, and I thinkwill lose some direction in the future.
DaimlerChrysler AG (in Germany): It's the largest heavy-truck maker in the world, and its commercial truck business accounted for $27 billion in sales and $1 billion in operating profit last year. Kurt Lauk turned that around, from running red to running black.
Kurt liked to bark once in a while, and they don't like that in Germany. Prediction: You don't lose leaders like Kurt Lauk without paying.
Opel AG: In the bigCorp. unit, the Germans (who were in the right) revolted against their American masters. Robert Hendry, who runs Saab Cars AB for GM, took over. He seems to be doing the job. Opel will pull together and grow stronger.
: Ford Europe CEOs have changed about every 18 months for more than a decade, and the company's been sinking. Nick Scheele, a European who did a good job at Jaguar, is the new chairman, and I expect that Ford Europe will get better every year.
The U.S.(DaimlerChrysler): Tom Stallkamp, the president, liked to bark once in a while, too, and, as noted, they don't like that back in Germany. What will happen? Chrysler has a few good years coming from product that the now-gone old gang created (PT Cruiser, the 4-door Dakota, the next new Cherokee from the new Toledo plant). After that, who knows, but I'd advise the Germans to let their executives bark once in a while.
: There have been so many executive changes I can't keep track. "Looking at our executive chart won't explain the way we are going to operate," one top Ford executive says. "It's not on the chart." I wonder how the board of directors will like that.
Prediction: None. Ford Chief Executive Jac Nasser is behind all of the changes, and he has been rolling sevens so far, so maybe it will all work out.
Mercedes (USA): Mike Jackson, president and chief executive of Mercedes Benz of North America, was simply the best marketing man around today. Possibly after doing such a great job for Mercedes, he did not like the dotted line that led from his New Jersey office to Detroit. Prediction: You don't lose men like Mike without paying.
BMW (USA): Vic Doolan, president of BMW here, like Charles Hughes at Rover, did a grand job of building sales. He quit. Maybe he didn't like reporting to a new boss BMW put in, either. He's at Ford now.
Japan We know that great changes are under way atMotor Co. Ltd., and Hiroshi Okuda, who was president of Motor Corp. and running the company, seems to have been pushed upstairs in the Japanese way. Apparently he liked to bark, too.
What does it all mean? We seem to be in a very fast-moving world, and the value of the individual isn't what it used to be. It makes me think of that old song that my first wife used to quote: "A silver dollar goes from hand to hand, but a good man's hard to find."
We all ought to remember that.