Mike Stevens | May 12, 2009

New GM CEO Frederick ‘Fritz’ Henderson took part in an online chat with consumers on Monday morning (US time), and while nothing was revealed that the automotive world doesn’t already know, it’s interesting to read the CEO’s opinions and feelings on the future of the former 'number 1' manufacturer.

Henderson touched on a number of topics, with some of the more interesting responses coming from questions about GM’s overseas operations and the company’s hybrid vehicle projects.

Speaking of his history at GM, Henderson also touched on his expectations of a 2020 GM that is known for its design, fuel economy and ‘delighted’ customers.

Click through for the full transcript of the chat.

gm_fritz-henderson 10:15 Fritz Henderson: good morning. this is fritz henderson and thanks for joining us. first question from one of our reader comments.

10:15 GMBlogs: How does GM plan to win with higher CAFE standards in the coming years? -Robert Kubler

10:17 Fritz Henderson: it starts with fantastic cars well engineered, lighter, more aero, with segment leading fuel economy enabled but superb and highly efficient powertrains. next, we introduce advanced propulsion technology into our line up, for example the volt by end of 2010. we already have 8 hybrids in the market today, with more coming. finally, we continue with key research work to ensure that we are able to support promising technologies such as fuel cells. 100 on the road today with great feedback.

10:17 [Comment From John Heim ]

What will happen to the salaried pension fund In or out of bankrupsy---will it be turned over to the govt ?? or will G.M. continue to take care of it in the future ?? THANKS !!

10:19 Fritz Henderson: good question and understand natural concern. the answer is that it is premature today to speculate or get into this matter. IF and when we would need to file for chapter 11, we would identify at that time how we would handle pension funds more generally, including hourly and salaried.

10:19 [Comment From Dr. Ron McGarry ]

I know that shuttering popular brands is difficult, but as a former Pontiac owner and now with a Corvette, I am concerned about the whole Corvette/Bowling Green operation. Destroy this and it will be bad fro GM on a whole. Any hints on plans for Corvette?

10:20 Fritz Henderson: corvette remains a force within our product lineup. it is a superb high performance car, the equal or better car relative to cars

that sell for 3x the price. the corvette pays the rent in terms of profitability and cash flow and is one of our strongest (if not our strongest) nameplates in the entire gm lineup. we intend to keep this car fresh and in a segment leading position. I also own one and love it.

10:21 [Comment From BP ]

Is there a list of dealers who will be closed? Where can it be found?

10:21 Fritz Henderson: we plan to communicate later this week to dealers. such a list is not available today.

chevrolet-volt_01

10:21 [Comment From Geoff Livingston ]

Can you tell us what's next for your green efforts? Certainly the Saturn line and Volt initiatives have been well discussed. What's next?

10:23 Fritz Henderson: the volt needs to be launched by year end 2010, which means we still have work in front of us. we have a separate team looking at gen II erev technologies while looking at other potential vehicle applications. alongside the volt we have a host of other technology initiatives underway, from second gen biofuels, to hybrids, etc.

10:24 [Comment From Sebert ]

R6P Camaro orders, there seems to be much confusion as to why some of the early order customers are Waiting for the cars while people can by them at dealers.

10:25 Fritz Henderson: the response to camaro by dealers and customers has been fantastic. we plan to continue to ramp up production at our oshawa complex and fill orders as soon as possible. in the meantime I suggest you continue to speak with your dealers regarding specific orders while we run fast to get production ramped.

10:26 [Comment From Tom Ludwick ]

Is GM really considering holding on to the Saab brand and allowing it to go into bankruptcy because the new 9-5 makes the brand worth keeping?

saab_9-5

10:28 Fritz Henderson: re saab, we have 2 superb saabs (new 9-5 and 9-4x) in development, but we simply do not have the resources to continue as is. as such, saab entered into reorganization earlier this year and is looking at potential investors. as part of this, gm is open to supporting a buyer by finishing development of these cars, but I do not anticipate that we will be the owner of saab post reorg.

10:28 [Comment From Al Brown ]

Sir What update can you give us on the viability plan that we are supposed to give to the Govt. by the end of the month?

10:29 Fritz Henderson: we would plan to update by no later than the end of the month.

10:29 [Comment From JIm Mbongo ]

Do you really think that selling Opel is for GM a good thing to do?

10:30 Fritz Henderson: important to understand facts on the question of opel. given the business challenges in europe, our business needs funding. at the same time, we have a commitment to the US Treasury and to the US taxpayer that funding received in the US will not be used to support overseas ops. as such, we need to identify sources of funds for our european business.

10:31 [Comment From Thomas Ho ]

I have a first-generation Prius that needs to be replaced. WHY should I "wait" for the Volt?

10:32 Fritz Henderson: I would love to take you out of your prius! so why wait for the volt? the car will be beautiful, a great driving experience, and if you commute less than 40 miles per day, the car should deliver a totally electric experience to the owner without using any gas at all.

10:32 [Comment From David George ]

Why was GMC deemed to be one of the core brands when there seems to be so little difference between Chevy and GMC products?

10:33 Fritz Henderson: easy. very strong brand. very loyal customer base. very profitable. any further questions?

ev1 10:33 [Comment From Aaron ]

Did all of the technology that was used to produce the EV1 get thrown away like all of the car were.

10:34 Fritz Henderson: no. we retained people and the learnings from the car. technologies like regen braking, aero and power electronics are critical to hybrids, volt and many other such cars going forward.

10:35 [Comment From MPG ]

will "deeper and faster" involve additional US salaried employment level cuts, and if so, of what approximate magnitude?

10:37 Fritz Henderson: we are deeply appreciative of the support we have received from many fronts, most particularly our people. I understand the concern and quite bluntly fears that people have today.

we will need to take further measures in this area to lean out our management structure and simplify the work of our salaried work force, which will mean we need further moves. I anticipate communicating our plans in this regard by the end of this month.

10:37 [Comment From Lou Bilancio ]

I'm a huge fan of the new Equinox. I am also spreading the word to my friends about it. When will they begin to arrive at dealers? Thank you!

10:39 Fritz Henderson: fyi, I recently drove one, an ltz with 4cyl/6sp automatic, 32mpg on the highway. my family owned a first gen equinox and we loved it. this gen II equinox is a superb successor to this vehicle and I anticipate it will be on many shopping lists. coming to a chevrolet dealer in july-august timeframe.

10:39 [Comment From Gary ]

Oops. My last question was sent out prematurely darn tiny netbook keyboard!). There is a lot of negativity in the media. First of all, you'd think that everybody has Swine Flu. There is a lot of anti-domestic sentiment, especially in larger cities where people are "image conscious" and like imports. How goes GM propose to counteract this?

10:40 Fritz Henderson: images and brands move step by step, sometimes bigger steps, but take time. it begins and ends with great products supporting strong brands, with leadership listening to dealers and customers every single day.

10:41 [Comment From Michael ]

When can we expect to see the next round of plant closings announced?

10:42 Fritz Henderson: we are in dialogue with the uaw and do not expect to notify individual plants until we conclude such discussions.

10:42 [Comment From brian watters ]

what do you drive presently and what is your favorite gm vehicle?

corvette-zr1

10:43 Fritz Henderson: the henderson family fleet. my wife drives a cool 9-3 saab convertible. my baby is my corvette, I am also driving a camaro, and my daughter drives a malibu.

10:44 [Comment From dc ]

Where do you see GM in 10 years?

10:47 Fritz Henderson: final question and a good one. I have worked for gm 25 years, in many locations around the world. while proud of what we have accomplished in many respects, nobody (least of all me) can be happy with the current state of affairs. a really difficult situation that is tough on virtually all people that love the company.

so, my vision. a company known for superb cars and trucks. beautiful designs, segment leading fuel economy, and delighted customers. if we accomplish this, I am 100% confident that we will succeed as a business!

10:48 Fritz Henderson: thanks for your time today. happy to do this in the future. will answer many of the questions we were not able to get to (I can only type at 50 words per minute) via fastlane.

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