"This has got to be the most memorable day in my tenure with General Motors," Akerson told hundreds of employees gathered at GM's engineering center in suburban Detroit.
The event was to mark GM's showing in last week's J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study. GM topped all other major automakers in the ranking, which measures the number of problems on 2013 cars and light trucks that buyers report after 90 days of ownership.
Akerson warned, though, that it will be tougher for GM to remain on top as it executes a busy vehicle-launch schedule over the next few years. GM has said that it will replace more than 90 percent of its lineup with new or significantly overhauled vehicles by 2016.
Many of the eight GM models that finished first in their segments in the J.D. Power study -- the next highest automaker had three -- were vehicles that have been on the market for many years, including the 2013 Chevy Tahoe SUV and GMC Sierra pickup.
"I don't want to backslide. You don't want to backslide. So that means we have a lot more to do," Akerson said. "You've got to do it every day, every month, every year. That's how you build brands."
Akerson, 64, cited the ability of Toyota, long a quality leader, to recover quickly from its unintended acceleration problems in 2010 because of its strong brand "equity" and reputation for quality.
"There's no question in my mind that our friends at Toyota today are working furiously to regain their position," he said.