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First 100 days: Unhitching Wagoner

The Wall Street Journal writes, "The Obama administration used the threat of withholding more bailout money to force out General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Rick Wagoner, marking one of the most dramatic government interventions in private industry since the economic crisis began last year." 

The Washington Post: "The White House's insistence that Wagoner step down is an extraordinary intervention of the federal government into the management of a private company. A senior administration official said Wagoner's resignation was required because the company needs a 'clean sheet.' 'We felt that having a change of leadership would be consistent with the clean-sheet approach,' said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter."

"Before the federal government extends more financial aid to the U.S. automakers, the industry must offer a plan that makes it 'much more lean, mean and competitive than it currently is,' Obama said yesterday on CBS's 'Face the Nation.'"

Wagoner today released this statement: "On Friday I was in Washington for a meeting with Administration officials. In the course of that meeting, they requested that I 'step aside' as CEO of GM, and so I have… Most important of all I want to express my deepest appreciation to the extraordinary team of GM employees around the world. You have been a tremendous source of inspiration and pride to me, and I will be forever grateful for the courage and commitment you have shown as we have confronted the unprecedented challenges of the past few years. GM is a great company with a storied history. Ignore the doubters because I know it is also a company with a great future."

The New York Times: "Mr. Obama's auto industry task force, in a report released Sunday night assessing the viability of both companies and detailing the administration's new plans for them, concluded that Chrysler could not survive as a stand-alone company. The report said the company would get no more help from the government unless it can finalize a proposed alliance with the Italian automaker Fiat by April 30. It must also reduce its debt and health-care obligations."

"G.M., on the other hand, has made considerable progress in developing new energy-efficient cars and could survive if it can cut costs sharply, the task force reported. The administration is giving G.M. 60 days to present a cost-cutting plan and will provide taxpayer assistance to keep it afloat during that time." 

"GM shares plunged around 20 percent in Frankfurt after steps outlined by the White House autos panel marked a stunning reversal for management at both GM and private equity-owned Chrysler," Reuters writes. "The moves came after Europe's second-biggest carmaker by sales PSA Peugeot Citroen ousted CEO Christian Streiff, replacing him with former Corus head Philippe Varin from June 1."