Whitman stresses that she's been gone from the company for many years and that her knowledge now is secondhand. But what she hears is that GM boss Rick Wagoner "had what many people felt was a viable plan for turning the company around. And he had started doing it-he had renegotiated the union contract and they were doing very well in Asia, and so on and so forth.
"What nobody foresaw-and I think 'nobody' is really true, here-was the sudden total freeze of credit. That just destroyed their access to the cash they would have counted on to get them through till the economy picked up again.
"The companies can't get loans, the dealers can't get loans, the consumers can't get loans. I think the latest forecast is 11.5 million in sales in the coming year. When I was there, sixteen million was a good year."
Bleeding cash, the Detroit automakers asked the federal government for an emergency loan. Under the circumstances, Whitman says, "I tend to take GM at its word: that if it didn't get a [government] loan, it wouldn't be able to pay its suppliers. And if [it] couldn't pay its suppliers, it wouldn't get supplies. And it wouldn't be able to make any cars at all."