Rick Wagoner and General Motors are enjoying October so far. On Oct. 5, GM announced it recouped more than nine points of market share in September to reach 30.5% of U.S. car and truck sales, recovering neatly from summer's strike. Next day, GM announced a global consolidation that anointed Wagoner, the 45-year-old head of GM's North American auto business since 1994, as COO and president of the newly unified $136 billion domestic and international auto business. That puts him second in line to succeed CEO Jack Smith. Still ahead: Vice-Chairman Harry Pearce, 56, who is being treated for leukemia.

With this shuffling of seats, the odd man out is Louis Hughes, considered Wagoner's main rival. Hughes fell out of favor after prolonged squabbling with GM managers in Europe. As president of GM's domestic auto business, Wagoner boosted net margins from 0.7% in 1994 to 2.7% for the first half of 1998, although GM's U.S. market share fell more than four points in that same period.

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