GM speeds up schedule for new models

August 5, 2009

 

GM speeds up schedule for new models

 

By TIM HIGGINS

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

Hoping to keep or improve market share, General Motors’ board of directors this week sped up the schedule to bring some new models to market, the automaker’s chairman said today.

Ed Whitacre, GM’s new chairman, spoke to reporters this morning about the 13-member board’s first round of post-bankruptcy meetings, which were held Monday and Tuesday.

"The board is very excited," he said.

Whitacre declined to say which vehicles were moved up in the schedule. He said "of course" the move was aimed at keeping or growing market share.

"We have plans in place to improve our market share, that’s certainly our intent. We’re going to be working at that," Whitacre said.

Banc of America Securities-Merrill Lynch’s annual Car Wars, a study that tries to predict automakers’ future product pipelines, last month cautioned that GM’s schedule lacked fresh products, which the report predicted could lead to erosion of market share beyond what the automaker had projected.

GM has said it expects its U.S. market share to even out at around 18%.

Whitacre said GM will be profitable "sooner than most people think."

"Hopefully we’ll surprise some people," he said.

The board has six members who were part of the old GM and seven new members. While in Detroit, they had an opportunity to drive GM vehicles.

Whitacre said he drove the Chevrolet Volt, GM’s electric drive vehicle slated to come to the market next year.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson has unanimous board support, Whitacre said. He noted that he speaks with Henderson "almost every day."

"He has our blessings and encouragement. … He’s enthusiastic, he’s a smart guy and we think he can get the job done," Whitacre said.

He also has visited with UAW President Ron Gettelfinger.

"We had a very nice conversation. I like him very much. I think the relations are going to be quite good going forward," he said. "That’s certainly my hope."

Whitacre, a Texas resident, does not plan to move to Detroit. "But I do anticipate being there often."

Edited by Randy Essex, Mark W. Smith and Michele Siuda Jacques.

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