Akerson likes 'the team that's on the field'

Peter Brown is publisher and editorial director of Automotive News
As he surveys the huge global corporation he now heads, Dan Akerson is looking largely at the doughnut and not the hole.

General Motors' latest CEO, who took over Sept. 1, likes much of what he sees: solid market share in all the world's major markets and competitive technology. And he wants to improve the company's frayed relations with its dealers.

The former telecommunications and private-equity executive told 19 reporters this morning:

• “I like the team that's on the field,” and he doesn't foresee large changes to the management team.

• “We have great technology and a good market position.”

• With the launch of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid late this year, “We're in the market with what I consider to be a unique and advanced technology.”

• “Our products are second to none today.”

• Joel Ewanick, the vice president of U.S. marketing, “brings new and fresh perspective” to GM's marketing.

• With the combination of “a great partner” in Ally Bank (formerly GMAC) for wholesale and some consumer financing, and the acquisition of AmeriCredit Corp. for subprime financing, GM can compete with Ford Motor Co. and other automakers that have full captive finance companies.

At the same time, Akerson reinforced the overriding message of his predecessor as CEO, Ed Whitacre, that GM needs to move faster with new products, technology for advanced propulsion, and globalizing its platforms.

And the company is adding shifts to try to meet demand for some high-demand models.

He reiterated earlier remarks that he wants to instill in GM “more of an attackers' culture than a defenders' culture… We're going to play offense. Speed is of the essence.”

As GM prepares for an initial public offering to start reducing the U.S. government's 61 percent stake in the company, Akerson, a Republican, said, “It was a wonderful thing that the taxpayers did for General Motors.” And now, GM wants to repay those taxpayers.