In a dramatic move Monday, General Motors' chairman/ceo Rick Wagoner took personal control of the automaker's languishing North American business.

Acknowledging the present fiscal and sales situation as its worst since the early 90s, GM issued a press release yesterday confirming that Wagoner (52) has assumed immediate responsibility for the $114 billion-a-year (€88.8bn; £60.85bn) North American unit.

The unit's former leaders, chairman Robert Lutz and president Gary Cowger will now focus on their "global responsibilities" - a chore handed to them during a recent restructuring of GM's international development and manufacturing operations.

Wagoner has effectively put his reputation and career on the line, creating widespread expectation in Wall Street and among investors of a 'magic' turnaround in the company's North American fortunes.

Says Wagoner: "Given the challenges we face in North America, it makes sense for me to assume control of GM North America's day-to-day operations and shorten the lines of communication and decision-making."

The GM board has put no time limit - publicly at least - on the period for which Wagoner will hold the two top jobs. One highly placed insider, however, spoke for many, opining that "some very heavy lifting" is needed to resolve the operation's problems.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff