Dan Akerson is starting to develop a vision for the huge global corporation he suddenly heads.
General Motors' new CEO was terse and closed off when he began his first mass media event last week in Detroit, breakfasting with 19 reporters. He declined to opine on issues he didn't know, and of course he can't even talk about finances as the company prepares for its initial public offering.
But as he grew more comfortable amid the small swarm of media locusts, the former Navy officer pointed to the course he'd like to steer the ship.
He wants to see GM "at the forefront of advanced propulsion." (Unlike his Old GM predecessors, he said he believes the theory of global warming.) And he wants to be more global at GM: "Someday, maybe it'll stand for Global Motors." And he twice offered that the company needs to improve relations with its dealers, the company's face with the customer.
For the rest, he sees lots of strengths in the new GM:
-- "I like the team that's on the field," he said, predicting no big changes to the management team.
-- "We have great technology and a good market position" in major global markets.
-- This fall's launch of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid gives GM "a unique and advanced technology."
-- "Our products are second to none today."
Akerson praised his predecessor, Ed Whitacre, for "a terrific job in righting the ship" and echoed Whitacre's call for faster decisions.
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.
And he quoted one of his predecessors as GM CEO, Charlie Wilson -- but added an important one-word contradiction: "What is good for America is good for General Motors -- and not vice versa."