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Pink slip for the corner office
If the big three CEO's have dug this hole for themselves and the industry, why do they get to keep their jobs? --Paul

They may not, at least, not all of them.

Chrysler's Bob Nardelli and Ford's Alan Mulally really can't be blamed for any serious hole-digging. They've only been on the job for a couple of years and the problems were pretty serious before they arrived. Mulally even deserves some credit for the fact that Ford says it isn't in imminent danger of collapse and probably won't need to tap the bail-out line of credit it is requesting.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner may be asked to leave his job as part of a loan package. But the industry's fundamental problems predate his 2000 promotion to the top job. GM has made changes in recent years to move away from over-dependence on SUVs and trucks, and it has also negotiated new union contracts that will bring the company's labor costs more in line with those of foreign-based competitors. But Wagoner could be blamed for not making these changes soon enough.

Given GM's untenable costs and increasing foreign competition, some argue that Wagoner was like a mutual fund manager in a bear market. Success may have been too much to expect. He could be credited for keeping the company alive prior to the recent collapse of the nation's overall economy. But, with calls for someone's head coming from Congress, Wagoner's neck seems to fit the guillotine best. It may be time to see if someone else could do this difficult job better.

NEXT: Union concessions

Last updated December 26 2008: 8:55 AM ET
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