According to General Motors’ interim CEO, the company’s new chief financial officer Chris Liddell is in the running to take seat of the CEO position. Liddell left his post at Microsoft, making him the first permanent top manager hired from outside GM since the company emerged from bankruptcy in July.

After suffering crushing blows like the rest of the automotive industry, GM is majority owned by the federal government. Despite a crackdown on executive pay, Liddell was granted an exemption from government-imposed pay caps. He will be paid $750,000 this year, and if the company is successful in selling shares to the public, Liddell will be paid another $4.5 million in stock options starting in 2012.

GM’s interim CEO Ed Whitacre told reporters that he expects the company to return to profit during 2010 and plans on driving sales to execute this goal. He also noted that the company anticipates paying off the government by June.

“We are focused on the revenue side,” Whitacre said. “You can always take out more costs.”

Whitacre also said that while he’s not optimistic GM will be able to sell the troubled Swedish Saab brand, it is making plans to start closing plants this week. About 3,400 Saab employees face losing their jobs, while 1,100 world dealers will have to find new franchises if GM can’t secure a deal by its self-imposed deadline of tomorrow.

So far, Dutch sports car manufacturer Spyker is the only known bidder for Saab.