New GM Chairman: 'I Think We'll Surprise Some People'

Joshua Duval
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The new chairman of General Motors, Edward Whitacre, presiding over the new GM's first board meeting Monday and Tuesday, says the automaker has a definite plan for becoming profitable and that it may reach that goal "sooner than most people think."

"We've only been at this one month," Whitacre said when asked when the company will be profitable again. "Yes, we have a profitability plan, and we're going to get there, and I think we'll surprise some people on how quickly we'll get there."

Whitacre says GM will focus on stopping its market share slide, citing plans to launch several fuel-efficient vehicles earlier than planned. Whitacre said that "it'll take a lot of emphasis and execution of our business plan," but that the company will improve its market share. In April, GM said that it would retain 19.5 percent market share in 2009, but would lose 1 percentage point by 2013. Whitacre said the company intends to beat 8.5 percent.

GM's new chairman said the company's new board would be active, meeting at least once a month, and convening by phone to discuss urgent manners. Whitacre is one of seven new members on GM's board, along with two directors with private equity experience and a Wall Street analyst representing the UAW's health care trust fund.

Whitacre would not discuss GM's plans to sell Hummer, Opel, or Saturn.

A statement from the board issued Tuesday reinforced its support for GM's new management team and the direction of the company.

"The entire board came away extremely impressed with the product lineup, and we are determined to act fast and drive the actions necessary to guide the new GM to success," read the statement.

"The focus at the newly launched General Motors Company is squarely where it should be, on customers, products, and the development of a winning culture," the board said.

Source: Automotive News

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