At 47, Rick Wagoner became the youngest CEO in the history of General Motors last week. And he's surrounded by at least 10 vice presidents aged 50 or younger.
But Wagoner still has to ensure GM shakes off its image as a slow-moving, lethargic organization.
He may have to recruit more senior managers from outside - such as Anne Asensio, the ex-Renault designer who joined GM in May. Meanwhile, GM is looking for replacements for chief financial officer Mike Losh, and at least four other key executives.
But if GM is still seen as a sluggish enterprise in the USA, its European operations have seen the beginnings of a product turnaround. After the success of the seven-seat Zafira minivan, several exciting new products are set to be launched. There's the Speedster sports car, the new Corsa, the new Vectra, a new Omega, and a six-seat mini-MPV which incorporates many of the packaging innovations seen on the Zafira.
Wagoner has pushed GM's electronic-commerce initiatives, particularly the creation of its e-GM business unit in 1999. But he must continue to work out how to use the Internet and the latest communication technologies to boost vehicle sales and streamline GM's manufacturing and distribution operations.
Wall Street analysts say Wagoner and company need to address at least three other crucial issues:
Stock price: GM's stock briefly topped $94 per share, but recently fell back to reality at about $70. Still, it is outperforming Ford and DaimlerChrysler.
Market share: GM's hot passenger-truck business has kept its US market share from falling further. But GM needs more bold new vehicles before it can push its share back over 30 percent.
Partnerships: GM has taken equity stakes in Fiat and Subaru, increased its stakes in Saab, Isuzu and Suzuki, and is bidding for Daewoo. The Fiat tie-up is likely to result in future platform and powertrain sharing, and significant purchasing and distribution synergies in Europe.
With Chairman Jack Smith, 62, now focusing more on GM's relationship with its board of directors and its dealers, Wagoner has free reign to reshape the company as he likes.
But don't expect a revolution. Wagoner was one of Smith's key deputies when Smith and former Chairman John Smale took over GM in 1992. Since then, Smith put Wagoner in charge of reorganizing GM North America and, for the last two years, GM worldwide.
GM officials credit Wagoner with driving GM's global operations to work together as one company and in 1998 consolidating GM's leadership into the 18-member Automotive Strategy Board. Wagoner heads the board.
In early 1999, Wagoner gave his staff the ultimatum to come up with an e-commerce plan within 90 days. The result was the uniting of GM's Internet activities under e-GM, partnerships with several dot-com companies, and an initiative to move all purchasing online.
Wagoner over the years also has surrounded himself with his peers. Those in key positions include:
Mark Hogan, 49, president of e-GM. Hogan graduated with Wagoner from Harvard University's MBA school in 1978.
John Smith, 49, vice president and general manager of GM Service Parts Operations. Smith graduated from Harvard University's MBA school in 1977.
Larry Burns, 48, vice president of research, development and planning. Burns has reported directly to Wagoner since 1996 as director of North American product planning.
Mike Burns, 48, president of GM Europe.
'Rick approaches everything with an incredible amount of energy. He's results-oriented, without question,' said John Smith, who got to know Wagoner during basketball games at Harvard.
'He was competitive, but more importantly he was a team player,' Smith said.
At GM, Wagoner refuses to hog the spotlight. That has led auto analysts to wonder who exactly Rick Wagoner is and whether the 23-year GM veteran can make a clean break with GM's stodgy, bureaucratic past.
'I would like to see fresh blood from outside GM in the senior executive ranks,' said David Bradley, an auto analyst with J.P. Morgan Securities. GM's last high-ranking hire from the outside was Executive Vice President Ron Zarrella eight years ago, Bradley said.
Upcoming retirements could create openings for outsiders and young GM insiders. Executives nearing retirement age include Don Hackworth, 63, who heads GM's Car Group, and Wayne Cherry, 62, vice president of design.