The Harder They Fall

Rick Wagoner

Ex GM CEO Rick Wagoner

I’ve been making my plans to attend the press days for the Detroit auto show and thought I’d review some of my photos from previous shows.  I always try to get head shots of auto execs in case I can use them as file photos for Cars in Depth or for the newspaper for which I also write.

I couldn’t help but notice that the unemployment rate among those I’ve photographed over the past couple of years is rather high.  In fact, none of the GM or Chrysler execs that I snapped in 2009 are still on the job and two politicos that I snagged are gone, too.

Pictured at the top of this piece is Rick Wagoner, former CEO of General Motors.  A long-time GM suit, Wagoner was anointed CEO in 2000 and chairman in 2003.  A little more than two months after this picture was taken, his new bosses in the Obama administration asked him to leave.

Ed Whiteacre

Ex GM Chief Ed Whiteacre

Ed Whiteacre was named chairman of GM in the reshuffling that occurred after the government took over the company in 2009.  He ascended to CEO after the resignation of Fritz Henderson later that year.  In September of 2010 he handed the reigns over to Dan Akerson and sauntered off to San Antonio to enjoy his retirement.

Bob Lutz

Legendary auto exec Bob Lutz at the 2011 Detroit show on a press pass

Bob Lutz’ career should be well known to car buffs.  He worked for GM in the mid- to late-1960s, bounced around among various automakers and came back to GM in 2001.  He officially retired in 2010 but has served as an intermittent consultant since.  This photo was taken at the 2011 Detroit press preview and one has to wonder why a man with his background in the industry was touring the show on a press pass from CNBC.

Brian Nesbitt

Brian Nesbitt was demoted from head of Cadillac division shortly after this picture was taken

Brian Nesbitt was head of Cadillac when this picture was taken at the 2010 Detroit show.  A talented designer, Nesbitt came to GM from Chrysler in 2001, worked at some of GM’s European operations for a while and landed back in the U.S. in 2007.  He got the head job at Cadillac in 2009 but was knocked back down to the design department in March 2010.

Bob Nardellis and Jim Press

Bob Nardellis and Jim Press in better (?) days

Bob Nardelli and Jim Press were top dogs at Chrysler in January of 2009, just before the company was handed over to Fiat.  Both joined the company after Daimler sold it to Cerberus and both were let go when Fiat took over Chrysler later in 2009.

Ralph Gilles

Ralph Gilles, still at Chrysler but no longer head of Dodge division

Ralph Gilles is also a very talented designer and has been with Chrysler since 1992.  Inexplicably, he was named president of the Dodge division in October of 2009 and then stripped of that title in June of 2011.  He is still head of design and is now CEO of Chrysler’s SRT division.

Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi in better days

Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House of Representatives when this picture was taken in January of 2010.  She was touring the show area of one of the automobile manufacturers that the U.S. government had acquired in the bailouts the year before and did a fairly credible job of acting as if she were interested.  Her party took a drubbing in the 2010 elections and, while she kept her House seat, she is no longer Speaker.

Jennifer Grandholm

Jennifer Grandholm served her two terms as Michigan's governor and had to step down

Jennifer Granholm was still governor of Michigan when this picture was taken.  Understandably, Michigan governors like to tour the Detroit auto show and it’s just way easier to come to the press previews rather than fight the crowds during the public days.  In 2009 Gov. Granholm even got to share the stage with Rick Wagoner at a GM press conference.  Granholm served two full terms before stepping down due to Michigan’s term limits.

Notice a U.S. automaker conspicuously absent from this list? I’ll run those pictures in a few days.

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