Newly tapped General Motors Chairman Edward E. Whitacre, Jr. may have built AT&T into a telecommunications powerhouse, but it's fair to question whether he can help do the same for GM. You see, he isn't particularly savvy on the whole auto business thing. In his own words: "I don't know anything about cars." While he admits that cars are a new consideration for him, Whitacre doesn't see it as a much of a problem: "A business is a business, and I think I can learn about cars. I'm not that old, and I think the business principles are the same."

The 67-year-old Whitacre has until Aug. 31 – the date GM is set to exit Chapter 11 – to bone up. Maybe we shouldn't be too critical. After all, former GM engineer and current 2953 Analytics principal, Jim Hall, thinks Whitacre is "a good choice" based on his experience and in the similarities he sees between AT&T and GM:
"He was one of the guys who helped create a new AT&T that wasn't so dependent on land-line phone service. There's a parallel with General Motors. GM is not now about just making cars. It's about re-creating itself as a 21st-century car company. They have to have somebody at the top that understands they have to make a new GM."
Whitacre says he was enticed out of retirement by the Treasury Department and Steven Rattner, President Barack Obama's auto task force dealmaker. He added that the Treasury basically told him, "We need your help. It's a great company. You could be a lot of assistance to GM." Big Ed says that he is helping GM out of bankruptcy as "a public service." We hope he is a quick study.

[Source: Bloomberg | Image: Mark Wilson/Getty]