San Francisco News

ABC7 sits down with new CEO of GM

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The new CEO of General Motors, Dan Akerson, came to San Francisco. Before he spoke before the Commonwealth Club, he sat down with ABC7.

Akerson has been CEO of GM since Sept. 2010. He was initially appointed to the board of directors by the U.S. Treasury in 2009. He says the old, pre-bankruptcy GM did many things right, like 90 percent, but that other 10 percent was the difference between success and failure.

Akerson says the new GM tries to be more tuned in to what the customer wants and aims to better understand trends with more pointed, in-depth research.

"In 2011, in the 103-year history of General Motors, we never produced greater profits than we did last year, two-and-a-half years out of bankruptcy. At the same time, we have our issues. To use a sports analogy in baseball, it's about the second or third inning and we've got a lot of work to do," said Akerson.

GM entered the electric hybrid market last year with the Chevy Volt. One of every four volts is sold in California, but production is being suspended for five weeks, beginning this month to reduce inventory. Demand has turned out to be less than expected.

Akerson believes sales dropped off because late last year a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report on a Volt crash got politicized, but he says adjusting production is no big deal.

"We have the number one selling car in America called the Chevy Cruz. We introduced it in November of 2010 and it literally outsold Honda, Toyota, in the compact category, best-selling car. In November, we closed plants in Lawrencetown, Ohio for two weeks to match inventory with production," said Akerson.

Akerson says GM has paid back the $25 billion bailout, but the government still owns a 27 percent stake in the company. He says he doesn't have the luxury of debating the politics of the bailout, he's too busy doing his job.

"Was it worth it? I think it's a success. What path did I take? Rather than argue from a political point of view, let's just argue it pragmatically. Was it a success? General Motors is not in the Fortune 500, but Fortune 10 now," said Akerson.

GM did $150 billion in sales globally last year. It sold 240,000 vehicles in China, but Akerson says the company's soul will always reside in Detroit.

"It's a great American company; we have the largest global market share. People don't understand how well we export and build around the globe. I think it's a great company with a great future and we got a second chance and trying to make the most of it," said Akerson.

Akerson was born in the Bay Area at Oak Knoll Navel hospital, but grew up in Minnesota. ABC7 asked him if it was fun to run GM and he was philosophical saying some days he's on top of the world, other days are crushing, noting his company is part of the American culture.

(Copyright ©2014 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.)

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general motors, auto industry, bailout, san francisco news, heather ishimaru
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