Another week, another seven days of auto industry turmoil. And, surprise, surprise, the Great General Motors Reorganisation dominated our headlines. And little wonder.

Just as just-auto's editorial team were tucking into their bedtime hot chocolate on Tuesday night, our inbox pinged with the news from Detroit of the shock resignation of GM CEO Frederick 'Fritz' Henderson. This was perhaps not suprising to all, but, after just eight months, well...

New chairman Ed Whitacre's GM statement, in which he said that the GM board accepted Henderson's resignation, was pretty blunt about the reason. Though acknowledging that "Fritz has done a remarkable job in leading the company through an unprecedented period of challenge and change", it went on to say that "while momentum has been building over the past several months, all involved agree that changes needed to be made".

And so, like Rick Wagoner before him, Henderson was gone.

Clearly, Whitacre's axe wielding stunned GM insiders. Bob Lutz, a blunt-speaking, motor show press scrum natural who was wheeled out at very short notice to substitute for Henderson at this week's Los Angeles Auto Show, didn't mince words either. "None of us had any hint," he told reporters. "The board makes these decisions. [It's] not something [management] would have done."

He said the company was 'surprised and saddened' by the Henderson resignation, adding the management team had a great deal of faith in and admiration for the man. But executives would 'just buckle down and get the job done'.

Hot on the heels of the the Fritz departure statement (it appears to have happened so fast GM did not have time to yank a PR Newswire-distributed press statement on Wednesday saying he would be headlining the automaker's presentations in LA that day), the inbox pinged again, just a few hours ago, with news of a Whitacre reshuffled management team that promotes Mark Reuss to head GM America and Nick Reilly to head GM Europe (replacing the recently departed Carl-Peter Forster). Lutz stays on as an adviser.

So has The Chairman now got all his ducks in a row? Only time will tell but his new broom has now swept out two key members of the top echelon of pre-Chapter 11 GM management and shaken up a post-bailout team which Whitacre has made clear he and the new board still thought too slow-moving and bureaucratic. Things are moving along apace here in Europe with the essential, capacity-cutting Opel/Vauxhall restructure but unions made clear today they aren't going to see Antwerp go down without a fight. The automaker also said today it was merging products and operations in China (where GM has done particularly well in recent years thanks to some smart late-1990s forward thinking) and India to better position itself in that key emerging market.

Clearly The General isn't going to be out of the news for a while yet.

Not that other automakers were idly standing by. VW lifted the lid on its first inhouse-developed one-tonne pickup which will be built in Argentina and sold most everywhere but North America. I'd say just add a grunty petrol V6 option from the Touareg/Passat parts bin in place of the rest-of-the-world turbodiesels and stick it on the ship to Long Beach to challenge Honda's Ridgeline and Toyota's Tacoma as well as the ancient Ford Ranger/Mazda B-series twins - VW says it doesn't have a North American commercial vehicle sales and service network to handle the truck.

The LA show brought an all but production-ready look at the VW Up!, coming to a Slovak plant near you in 2011, and Ford and Mazda both launched their North American-spec Fiesta and 2 ready to challenge established B-segment import players there like the Honda Fit (Jazz) and Toyota Yaris. That'll be a segment scrap to watch once battle commences next year.

Meanwhile, on this side of the pond, we had a look at a development mule and a chat with GM chiefs about the European version of the Chevy Volt - we'll see the Opel/Vauxhall Ampera in showrooms from Antwerp to Zaragoza from 2011.

And the Saab and Volvo sagas rumbled on. Saab, whose quirky pre-GM products I always liked, looks more and more like toast as we learned today BAIC now is buying the old 9-5 tooling. Talk of the Swedish production line being dismantled sounds uncannily like the 2005 Nanjing 'lift and shift' operation that saw the Chinese do just that to MG Rover's old production lines. And only after the company was no more. Within months, all the machinery was soon back in the right order in a Chinese factory, cranking out saleable updated former MGR models, including their engines.

There have been reports of interest in rescuing Saab before the GM board's end-year deadline but could auto minnows like Spyker really get the finance and run a mass-producer?

At least Volvo's prospects looked a little brighter this week and there was also news of closer ties between PSA and MMC.

Have a great weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor
just-auto.com