The government bail-out package for the struggling US car makers has come with strings attached. President-elect Barrack Obama has demanded major restructuring, including changes at the top, at the three major auto firms.
In an appearance on NBC's `Meet the Press' and later at a news conference, Obama asked the Detroit Big Three - General Motors Corp, Ford Motor and Chrysler LLC - to shed their ostrich-like approach to problems and be clear of long-term survival strategy for US auto industry.
At least one senator (Congressional Democrat, senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut) was blunt enough to say Rick Wagoner, the chief executive of General Motors Corporation, "has to move on."
Dodd's call has given rise to speculation in the media about who might replace GM's Wagoner and his counterparts at Ford and Chrysler.
The Wall Street Journal said Carlos Ghosn, who heads both Nissan Motor Co and Renault, could be a good choice, considering his record of the quick turnaround at Nissan – that too, without any government bail-out package - other suggestions included GM insiders like COO Fritz Henderson.
While it is yet not known who else are in the list or if Washington has someone in mind, the Fortune magazine suggested names like Robert Lane, chairman of Deere & Co; John G Rice, vice chairman of General Electric Co and president and CEO of GE Technology Infrastructure; and Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat SpA of Italy.
Robert Lane and John Rice are new to the automotive industry and are widely expected to find favour considering the inability of the current incumbents to turn around the beleaguered American auto industry.
Alternatively, automotive insiders like Nissan's Ghosn and Fiat's Marchionne have proven track records of turning around troubled auto firms, making them strong contenders for the turnaround job.
Rice, being a disciple of turnaround king Jack Welch, may be a particularly interesting choice. The government also may favour an industry outsider with some knowledge of the auto industry and government contracts to deal with its new `auto czar'.
The bailout plan approved by the US House of Representatives includes the extension of government loans or lines of credit to General Motors Corp, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler LLC and the appointment of a government `car czar' to oversee the rescue of the auto industry through commercially-viable innovation and restructuring.
Now that President-elect Obama has suggested that General Motors and the rest of the Detroit Three may need to install new management as a condition of a bailout, the question is: who will take the reins at GM, Ford and Chrysler?
While the US government is working out a $15-17 billion bridge-loan for the Detroit Three, much will depend on how things work out for the coming Obama administration to decide on a longer-term package for the US auto industry.