GM CEO says public no longer angry over auto bailouts

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GM bailout

Public dissatisfaction with the GM bailout has led some to call the automaker "Government Motors." Image: Mike Licht, BY

According the the CEO of General Motors, the American public is over its anger at the U.S. auto industry for accepting government bailouts in  2009. While the rise of the Occupy movement demonstrates a growing dissatisfaction from the public regarding the collaboration of government and big business, the automaker points to its own poll as evidence of improved sentiments.

Polls says public opinion reversed

GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson cited a poll the auto giant commissioned from the PR firm Peter Hart Research Associate in July. According to the poll, 70 percent of Americans now have a positive opinion of GMC. A similar poll taken in 2009 showed the opposite.

In 2009, to avoid bankruptcy, GMC, along with most major U.S. automakers, accepted massive bailouts from the federal government. GM alone was given $49.5 million.

Akerson explained the reported turnaround at a  presentation at the Detroit Economic Club:

“I think America loves a competitor. I think General Motors, Chevrolet in particular, is part of Americana.”

Profits have been up

GM’s previous chairman was concerned that government ownership was hurting its sales. But Akerson, pointing to the more than $7.1 billion the company has already made in 2011, said “I do think that we’ve kind of gotten over that.”

Akerson said even though the government stays out of the day-to-day running of the company, it does limit pay and bonuses. He said he is disgruntled that the company will not be able to pay bonuses to its top executives no matter what profit it earns.

European losses

Auto sales have been way down in Europe, forcing some European automakers to cut staff and expenses. Akerson said GM will likewise have to do some shoring up with its European operations. He did not go so far, however, as to mention layoffs or closures.

In July, following steep declines in European auto sales, Akerson addressed rumors about its German-based Opel division.

“We don’t comment on speculation, and there’s been a lot of speculation. But I will say this: Opel is not for sale.”

At that time Akerson also speculated that there would be restructuring at the European factory. Thursday he said:

“Clearly you can’t have a unit as important as Opel is to General Motors chronically unprofitable. It’s not sustainable, and it’s not good for the company.”

Restructuring Opel

Monday, the company moved on plans to restructure Opel. Vice Chairman Stephen Girsky was tapped to replace Nick Reilly as overseer of the German company.


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