GM chairman looks to assert group as a global player

Long-term aims unveiled in speech which may reveal signs of internal tensions

Fritz Henderson, appointed chief executive of General Motors in the spring after 25 years with the company, is coming under intense public pressure from his new boss, chairman Ed Whitacre.

Mr Whitacre, a telecoms industry veteran who turned AT&T into the largest carrier in the US, was lured out of retirement to head GM, and his public remarks are being parsed in Detroit for signs about Mr Henderson's long-term future with the company.

In a round of interviews and a speech on Tuesday, Mr Whitacre continued to hold his chief executive's feet to the fire. Mr Henderson, promoted from chief operating officer when the Obama administration fired Rick Wagoner, is "under a lot of pressure," Mr Whitacre told Bloomberg. "He handles it well. He's carrying a big load."

In the latest signs of faultlines between the two men, Mr Whitacre emphasised the need to pay back money borrowed from the taxpayer before moving ahead with a flotation of the new General Motors. The company was restructured in bankruptcy court this year, emerging with the US government as majority shareholder, and Mr Henderson had suggested an initial public offering next year that could reduce the government's stake.

The chairman, who was brought in by the administration after GM emerged from bankruptcy, has also been pressuring managers to focus on repairing market share as a longer-term means of restoring profitability, rather than simply thinking about short-term cuts. As a result, Mr Henderson's tortuous negotiations over the sale of Opel and Vauxhall in Europe were ripped up by the board last week, when it voted to retain the two brands instead. "How could you be a global player and not play all over the globe?" Mr Whitacre said. "Our financial fortunes had improved enough that we re-examined that."

Mr Whitacre said he did not initially want to lead GM, but changed his mind after assurances the government would not seek to micro-manage the company. He became only the third person in 70 years to head the company without being a long-standing GM executive.

Since joining GM, however, he has inserted himself visibly into its efforts to portray a new face to shareholders, employees and consumers. He is personally fronting the latest GM television advertising campaign, highlighting areas where some of its brands compare favourably with the Asian manufacturers traditionally seen by consumers as being more reliable. "May the best car win," is his slogan.

Critics should be "pleasantly surprised" with GM's financial results this month, the chairman said, without giving details. With the first monthly sales gain in October since January 2008 and an improving economy, repayments may start soon on some of its $50bn (£30bn) in US bankruptcy aid, he said. A stock offering has become more problematic since the government's General Accounting Office said it did not believe the taxpayer's stake would ever be as much as was paid for it. GM's market capitalisation would have to leap to $67bn, even more than its peak in 2000.

News
peoplePaper attempts to defend itself
Voices
voicesWe desperately need men to be feminists too
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

IT Project manager - Web E-commerce

£65000 Per Annum Benefits + bonus: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: If you are...

Trainee / Experienced Recruitment Consultants

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Soho

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40000: SThree: As a Recruitment Consultant, y...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits