New CEO Says GM Repayment to U.S. May Take 'Couple of Years'

General Motors has to be a global competitor and an innovator, Dan Akerson says.

Dan Akerson, the former Carlyle Group executive who became GM's CEO earlier this month, said on Sept. 16 that it may take a "couple of years" to repay the U.S. government's $50 billion investment that allowed the auto giant to emerge from bankruptcy.

Akerson sidestepped questions about the upcoming GM share offering announced in August, which could be among the largest ever in the United States. But he did say he would like to see the sale of stock now held by the U.S. Treasury cover the cost of the 2009 bailout.

"I think it was a wonderful thing American taxpayers did for GM," said Akerson. "I do want to repay them. I don't think it's going to be in one fell swoop. But I don't think any investor group has infinite patience," he said, indicating that he expected to repay the U.S. Treasury over the next "couple of years."

The share offering will allow the Treasury to begin offloading the 61% stake it acquired in last year's bailout.

GM also has to show consistent financial results, said Akerson, who will also become chairman on January 1, when current chairman Ed Whitacre steps down. "Two quarters don't make a trend," he said, referring to GM's two billion dollars in profits in the first half of 2010.

Akerson also said GM has to change in order to survive, and needs to "become faster" as a company. "I also want to inculcate an attacker's culture into the company. If there's a segment where a competitor is leading I want to go after it," he said. "I think General Motors has to be a global competitor. We have to be an innovator.Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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