Speaking directly against Senator Dodd's proposed ouster of Wagoner, Lee Iacocca said, "I do not agree with the sentiment now coming out of Congress that the management should be changed as a condition of granting loans to the Detroit automakers...The companies may not be perfect but the guys who are running them now are the only ones with the experience and the in-depth knowledge and understanding of how the car business really works. They're by far the best shot we have for success. I say give them their marching orders and then let them march. They're the right people to get the job done."
Bob Lutz took a different angle at defending Wagoner, shifting the blame to himself and offering his own job as a sacrifice. “If Congress wants a sacrifice, it should be me. I’m older, and I’ve made politically incorrect remarks about global warming, so it should be me," he said, according to the Detroit Free Press. Both men take a clear stance that while mistakes have been made, finding a replacement with enough know-how to do better would likely be impossible.
Senator Dodd's position appeared equally clear at first. "If you're going to restructure, you've got to bring in a new team to do this. I think [Wagoner] has to move on," he said on CBS talk show 'Face the Nation'. He later hedged that stance by saying that management changes would only be necessary if leadership is "not willing to make the tough choices and adapt to these new circumstances," reports The Wall Street Journal.
Many names have been bandied about in speculation on who might be lured into replace Wagoner, but taking over the head of a severely ailing company isn't a job for just anyone. Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn has proven his ability to make the tough and necessary changes while inspiring a swift turnaround, bringing Nissan out of the depths of its 1990s malaise and turning a $6.1 billion annual loss into a $2.7 billion profit in just a single year.
Ghosn's plans at Renault-Nissan are long-term and ongoing, however, so it would likely take a substantial salary offer to lure him away if he would even be willing to leave the locus of his success. GM President Frederick Henderson, on the other hand, is already in the company's employ and though he's arguably part of the problem, being a member of GM's executive leadership, he's also recently the man that took over the company's auto operations from Wagoner earlier this year. Whether Henderson can be credited with the few bright spots in GM's portfolio or not, he may be irrevocably tainted by association with the current corporate ethos.
Several other names, including former General Electric CEO Jack Welch and CarMax, Inc. chief Austin Ligon, are also on the list of possible outside replacements, but Ligon doesn't think he's the right man to run a major industrial company. Welch hasn't spoken on the matter, and though his experience with GE could serve him well at GM, the car business is in many ways unique, and could require an insider as Iacocca has argued.