GM CEO Akerson defends tenure as his exit nears
WASHINGTON Dec 16 (Reuters) - Dan Akerson, General Motors Co's outgoing chief executive, on Monday defended his tenure leading the No. 1 U.S. automaker and said his successor will have to build on the turnaround that he guided.
GM said last week that Akerson would step down in January and be succeeded by product development chief Mary Barra, the industry's first woman CEO. Akerson assumed control of the Detroit company shortly before its autumn 2010 reintroduction as a public company and steered its return to profits after the 2009 bankruptcy and $49.5 billion federal bailout.
Akerson, speaking in one of his final appearances before he leaves, also celebrated the exit last week of the U.S. Treasury as a shareholder. In 2009, critics had argued GM should not receive a federal bailout and dubbed the company "Government Motors" after the Treasury initially inherited a 60.8 percent stake in the company.
"The end of the 'Government Motors' era has cleared the runway," Akerson said in the text of a speech provided to the media ahead of his appearance at the National Press Club in Washington.
Barra and her team will not have an easy job continuing GM's success, Akerson said, adding that the 39-day "quick rinse" bankruptcy only allowed the company to fix its balance sheet.
"We had to remedy decades of poor decisions and indecisions and 'no decisions' that started to pile up in the 1970s and '80s like so much rotting firewood," Akerson said.
"We have been fixing the plane while it's in the air," he added.
Akerson said GM at the time faced out-of-controls costs, wasteful complexity and diminished quality, and had lost sight of its customers. He said his goal during his time was to restore the company's reputation, transform its operations and put the customer as the focus in every decision made.
GM is still in the "early chapters" of its comeback story and that includes continuing to invest to build cars and trucks that consumers want to buy, Akerson said. GM on Monday announced it would invest $1.3 billion in five U.S. plants.
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