General Motors Co. (GM:US) Chief Executive Officer Dan Akerson said he prefers his successor to come from within the automaker to ensure a smooth handover.
“My preference would be for it to be an internal candidate just because as you might expect, in any company in any industry, it’s less disruptive,” Akerson, 63, said at the Automotive News China Conference in Beijing.
Akerson, who took the helm in 2010, said he didn’t know when he would leave the company. Under his watch GM retook the title of the world’s top-selling automaker (GM:US) in 2011 and the company is now counting on refreshed products such as the Chevrolet Malibu sedan to help it rebound from a U.S. market share that dipped to a 90-year low.
“When the board (GM:US) has had enough of me or I can’t do the job to what I think is an adequate level of performance then I’m gone,” Akerson said. Company boards in general should pick CEO successors, he said.
The U.S. automaker is preparing a renewed Cadillac push in China with plans to introduce new products, increase local production and expand sales outlets as it aims to boost sales in the country at least fivefold to match U.S. deliveries by mid- decade.
GM’s dealers in China will increase to 3,500 by the end of this year, Kevin Wale, president of the company in the country, said in Beijing today.
SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile Co., its joint venture in the Asian nation, will boost exports 50 percent this year, and will probably reach 20,000 units, Karl Slym, executive vice president of the venture, said.
The automaker is starting major “knocked down” kit exports to Egypt, India and Colombia this year, Wale said. It’s also studying exports to other markets, he said, without elaborating.
Akerson touched on a range of topics, from reiterating that U.S. rival Ford Motor Co. (F:US) should sprinkle “holy water” on its Lincoln luxury brand to complaining about Fox News coverage of the Chevrolet Volt.
“A little bit of holy water wouldn’t hurt, I won’t back off that,” he said of the Lincoln brand. Similar comments to the Detroit News last year taught him about expressing his point of view on competitors, he said.
“This is the funniest industry,” he said. “Most industries people are straight up with it. Here everybody slaps everybody on the back, you just got to make sure they don’t have a knife with it.”
As for the Volt, “it’s become a political football,” Akerson said of the plug-in hybrid sedan. “One night I watched Fox News talk about explosions. There was never an explosion. No Volt has ever had a fire.”
The safety of the Volt’s battery was investigated by the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety after a test vehicle caught fire three weeks after a crash test last year. In November, when the fire became public, an investigation began that ultimately found the Volt to be as safe as other cars.
As chief executive, Akerson is working to stem losses in Europe, referring to operations there as “a four-alarm fire.”
“It’s something we need to address,” he said. “It’s something we have to resolve.”
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