General Motors Co. emerged from bankruptcy today, with chief executive officer Fritz Henderson saying the top priorities for the company will be “customers, cars, and culture.”
Henderson said that the company, which retains only the best assets from the old company after a bankruptcy court sale, would have to “show you” that this new focus could show results. It is also emerging with only $11 billion in debt compared with $27 billion in debt to bondholders it previously held. The company had also been closing factories and renegotiating labor contracts ahead of its bankruptcy filing on June 1.
He was asked what the “New GM” goals would be.
“It’s not about size and bigness, it’s about creating real value,” he said.
He said the company would be “obsessed” with serving customers through better customer service and the “center of our universe.” He said he would seek more opportunities to listen to customers. One effort would be a “Tell Fritz” website that would allow customers to communicate with him and other senior managers.
“We need to listen to the questions and ideas of the people who matter most,” he said, referring to customers.
He said he would also go on a nationwide tour to meet with dealers and suppliers, something which he has done previously in his career.
On the issue of cars he said the company will have a goal to make the best cars.
“Anything less than best in class will not be good enough,” he said. “It’s something we need to re-establish.”
On the issue of culture, GM said in a released statement that speed and decisiveness show in making decisions over the past months ahead of the company’s bankruptcy demonstrated a new way of doing business with a stronger focus on customers.
Also today, Ed Whitacre, the former chief of AT&T, officially became the new Chairman of GM. He was chose by President Obama’s auto task force in June to help to oversee the company. Whitacre said he agreed to take the position company because he admired it.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done to get GM where we want it to be,” he added.
He also noted that although he had only been with the company for a short time, the company’s employees and staff are up to the challenge of helping the company change.
Bob Lutz, the former Vice Chairman, will “un-retire,” Henderson said, saying he has decided to return, working on creative design, brands, marketing and advertising at the company. He will report to Henderson. Lutz had previously decided to retire, but will come back in the new role.
“We will merge the marketing, brand and image under Lutz,” Henderson said.
Mark LaNeve will continue to be the head of sales, and will report separately to him.