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Dan Akerson says his final goodbye to General Motors
Former GM Chairman & CEO Dan Akerson with Keith Crain at the Automotive News World Congress on Jan. 15, 2014.
DETROIT -- Dan Akerson, former CEO and Chairman of General Motors, was the special guest at the 2014 Automotive News World Congress in Detroit, Michigan. Keith Crain, Editor-in-Chief of Automotive News, says "We're just gonna chat." Akerson reflected on his beginning, his proudest moments and his legacy at GM.
How were you asked to be CEO? "I was asked if I would consider to be both CEO and Chairman and I said, 'It was a pretty tall order.' I waited until I got home and told my wife. Telling her on the phone was unacceptable. GM to me represented more than a company. This was a mission you had to believe you were doing this for the good of the company, this region of the country and for the United States," he added.
What was your surprise? "The basic fundamentals had been ignored for many decades. It took us eight weeks maximum to close the books. We had to re-vamp our financials. We didn't know what profit-line profitablity was. We didn't have control of our own IT (information technology). Those have been the biggest surprises."
You were an engineer, was it a little bit chaotic? "It always matters what people think of you. There was a little bit of scratching my head. But we had people who rose to the occasion such as Mark Reuss and Mary Barra. I love an underdog. The organization was very fragile. I knew I made the right decision. The GM employee base was very committed. Hats off to the GM team. In some sense, the CEO is like a manager, makes decisions to show leadership. You are always looking for the best talent.....looking for the best team for the long term."
What was it like going to the GM Tech Center? "Everyone looked at me and wondered, 'Who in the hell was I?' The organization was fragile. Someone said, 'I'll give you a summary' and I said, 'No I want to read the manual.' I was good at that."
Five years from now, assuming the vision is in tack? "I'm sorry I don't want to answer that. The monkey was on our back to deliver results. We had to be profitable, get back on the S&P, repay the government and hopefully pay dividends. And we did that. When you quit learning, you're dead. The first year of my job was to position the company towards success. I told Bob King, 'We need to be friends, you need me and I need you.' We believe in our future, in our strategy and our company. The two-tier wage is important. Cost of labor has to be competitive. We try to build where we sell."
Why Mary Barra? "When I first came in, she was in Human Resources, she's a woman who knows the business. She was not brought up in H.R. What I needed was a good manager. Mary was very decisive personally and I wanted to push her capability. To add a note, Barra will be the first CEO of any major automaker."
Did you ever think of being an author? "I'd have to think about that," he says.
Akerson also said that there are still challenges in Europe and India where GM recently announced would close. However, he also said that GM will be reinvesting billions in the company.
Crain concluded with, "I think GM owes you a great debt and America owes you a great debt."
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In July 2009, Akerson was named to the board of directors of General Motors as a representative of the U.S. Treasury, which owns a 61% stake in GM.
On August 12, 2010 it was announced that Akerson would be the successor of Ed Whitacre as CEO of General Motors, starting September 1, 2010 and would also assume the Chairman of the Board position on January 1, 2011.
General Motors, during Akerson's first year of tenure in 2011, earned a record $7.6 billion in profit off of $150.3 billion in sales.
Akerson chose Marry Barra to be his successor as CEO and shortly after, Theodore Solso was named Chairman.
This page was last updated on Sun, March 30, 2014 11:10 PM
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