April 5th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
14 years ago

New GM chief: Can't take 'anything off the table'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Newly-minted General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson told CNN's John King that all options are in play as the beleaguered company struggles to steer clear of bankruptcy court.

"As I look at the situation today, the company still needs to pull together our people, our suppliers, our dealers, management executives, everyone, bondholders, retirees ... We need to go further," he said in an interview on CNN's State of the Union Sunday. "And I think at this point it would be inappropriate for me to try to guess what that [course of action] might be.

"I just know this, if the conclusion is you've got to go deeper and you've got to go faster, you can't really afford to take anything off the table."

The federal government has loaned $13.4 billion to GM and $4 billion to fellow struggling automaker Chrysler. Last week, President Obama gave failing grades to both companies for their turnaround efforts, and said GM had 60 days to prove it can "restructure in a way that would justify an investment of additional taxpayer dollars."

Trust Obama?

"I trust that we're going to get this job done. I have to understand that the taxpayer - you know, the president's job and the task force's job is to look after the taxpayer. We need to respect that," Henderson said.

"The day we took a dollar from the taxpayer because we ran out of money last December was the day that we brought on additional responsibilities on all of us. And so we need to do our part to first take care of customers so that ultimately we can win, because the customers are the ones that pay the bills."

Henderson's "additional responsibilities" are directly linked to the auto bailout: He rose to his new position last week after the administration asked his former boss, Rick Wagoner, to step down.

Election 2008

Henderson - who has donated money to both Democrats and Republicans, including both Bush-Cheney presidential campaigns - told King he was a Republican. "...But I always vote for who I think is - is the best person. And so, you know, I try as much as possible to get myself up to speed, and I vote for who I think the best candidate is," he said.

He laughed off the question of which candidate he voted for in 2008. "I'm not going to get into that," said Henderson.

–CNNMoney.com's Jennifer Liberto contributed to this report.

Filed under: State of the Union
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Russ

    Give the bailout money to the suppliers and to heck with the "skilled" auto workers and dumb executives. Toyota has had the Prius in showrooms for over a decade and GM is just beginning to get theirs out !!! HELLO!!!!!

    April 5, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  2. Jeff Spangler, Arlington, VA

    GM prudently retained bankruptcy counsel some time ago and they are certainly working on a prepackaged plan which will reduce the time to emerge from court supervision and not scare consumers away. I don't think either management or labor is realistic or courageous enough to make the cuts which are necessary, and a Chapter 7 dissolution may be the result rather than a Chapter 11 restructuring.

    April 5, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  3. Scott AZ

    The democrats are trying to protect one of their major voting block... the auto unions.

    April 5, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  4. one day at a time

    why is it the minute we drive our cars off the lot, they have already lost thousands of dollars in value???

    April 5, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  5. Bill ~ Down on the Bayou

    Just give this administration time: If the plan goes in the direction the "Great Himself" (obama) wants it to go you should be very happy.
    Having listened to him campaign for two years telling you his plan to conquer and destroy Democracy you wanted that change, it's coming. Soon he will be the person in charge of naming CEO of all companies with more than 750 employees, he and he alone will tell those companies how much of their product they can produce each year.Union leaders will (as payback) permeate boards of directors. He will take your home because it is larger than you need and give it to someone more deserving, and that's just a beginning.

    Enjoy the change and Have a Great Day.

    April 5, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. blue

    I wonder how many folks here know that the so called Bailout money to the auto companies are loans? It confuses a lotta folks because the money to the Finance Companies were true bailouts – in that they wont be paying it back... does that matter to anyone...those folks here that have a hatred for american owned manufacturing?

    A viable auto company can pay back loans if they stay in business, if they go bankrupt, they will become a true burden to the taxpayers of america. When times are good, auto companies make lots of money, and that loan will likely be paid back early with interest.

    Lots of americans by american cars. 47% of vehicles in america are made by one of the three companies in Detroit, the rest are split by 15 other companies, who have most of their employees in a country other than america.

    April 5, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  7. GM lover

    Have always been a GM family. Current 2004 Impala ( 6 cyl) gets 33-36 on the highway and 26-28 in rush hour traffic. Affordable at 18K in Jan 2005. Has 128K miles and runs like a top. Only major repair was transmission (@124K) due to stop and go traffic every AM. Looks great, runs great, and AMERICAN MADE. I believe GM needs to do some better advertising to convince the American public of GM's quality American products. They could also improve by cutting back on some lines making the same car but under a different name: Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, etc.

    April 5, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  8. Average Joe

    I love it. Did I read this wrong, or did this guy basically just say that they don't have a plan. This is stupid. Let them fail!

    April 5, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Mike Dallas

    I supported the first one for GM but it may be time to let them go and concentrate the efforts at keeping Ford afloat. Ford is in much better shape financially and I think America needs to maintain at least one auto manufacturer for security purposes. I neither work for an auto manufacturer or supplier, nor do I know anyone that does.

    I understand that GM cannot choose reorganization since that would take more than 80-100 billion taxpayer's dollars to pay GM's expenses during the 2 year reorg timeframe because they cannot get credit from the private sector while the reorg takes place. Therefore, they should liquidate instead of reorg. That would cause huge problems such as flooding the market with cheap cars in a time when no one wants them. Therefore, subsidies should go to Ford during GM's liquidation when everyone is buying GM’s cheaper cars and none of Ford’s since they would still be at market value. Also, the battery research and development program of GM should be moved to Ford and not sold during the liquidation.

    Therefore, we could stop sending billions to GM of course we will still spend billions on unemployment benefits and health care cost for the hundreds of thousands that will lose their jobs both for GM and associated industries. Plus the pension quaranty fund will pick up the legacy costs of pensions and when that goes belly up, we taxpayers will once again be on the hook, It will be costly either way, but long term I think it is better to let GM go and liquidate.

    It will very painful and disruptive for many, many people and I truly hate that fact, but, I do think it is time to try and save at least one American automaker and that should be the one that is most viable now.

    April 5, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  10. cmoore

    I did not know Obama had business or auto manufacturing experience.

    April 5, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  11. Independent, IL

    Sure we can take things off the table. Starting with OUR tax dollars! Idiot!

    April 5, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  12. Mike Dallas

    At least Henderson realizes that GM is no longer a private company, and the first allegiance is now to the taxpayer not the stockholders.

    Also, to all the dittoheads saying "Obama is taking us down the road to socialism".

    I would like to remind all of you neo-cons that GWB was the President that approved the first bailout funds for GM.

    So, if President Obama is taking us down the road to socialism, he is only following behind repubs, who actually built the road in the name of corporate welfare for the fat cats!

    April 5, 2009 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. Had It

    I'd love to hear some of these interviews, but I can't stand the John King circus or his wife Dana Bash or fat-faced Ed Henry. They are sickening. Wish CNN had a decent interviewer. How about Fareed for a change? Get rid of the slime.

    April 5, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  14. taylor68

    It seems that the alternatives are never considered in the media (and in many of these comments). The only choices are all hard ones:

    1) Leave the CEO and company alone, said okay, no more bailouts, do what you will (go bankrupt)... Your on your own!

    2) Stick our heads in the sand and say okay, here's another bailout and we think you're the greatest, just come back next month for more!

    3) Or do what we did and insist on changes at the top and give someone else a shot at saving the company and jobs by creating a viable plan?

    As a co-owner of GM, I support #3.

    April 5, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  15. good, nothing is off the table

    1. fold the car companies into one company

    2. let them fail

    April 5, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. Wakeup people

    Let them all fail, exeuctives and union memebers alike they are all greedy!

    April 5, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  17. Sarge

    I say let all of these God ^&^^ companies fail....The CEO's are making the big bucks. I just got notice from Bank of America that they are raising my interest rate and I contacted them as was told due to the bad economy. Didn't we just give BOA billions of dollars? Now these GREEDY Sobs want even more money from their card members who have been loyal with an excellent standing with them!!!!!!! I say hang the CEO's in the middle of time square....And to Stabenow's statement that "Bankruptcy should not be an option for Auto industry". Millions of American are filing bankruptcy so should the big CEO's and companies. I wish that Obama would give me Millions of dollars.....People of America when are we going to stand up and say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH OF THIS BS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  18. Gerry

    Now the U.S. Government is in the automobile business. You know what they say about lawyers and automobile salesmen(women).

    April 5, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. mellow

    It is so sad that we have an obama appointee running one of America's most prized companies. I can't believe I'm seeing this. Obama is ruining this country

    April 5, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  20. Willy Brown

    A bootlicker for #44.

    April 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  21. Texas Teacher

    Praise the Creator... whenever you see the light and have the courage to declare it... its a holy day! Sooner or later all need to see that Bush/Cheney... those "so called" emperors were wearing no clothes for the 8 years of their reign. And way to many were fooled..... let "the scales fall from your eyes," People... and support the man who is trying to bring us out of the Bush/Cheney nightmare

    April 5, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  22. Kathy

    The successful automobile manufacturer would make cars Americans want to buy – high quality, fuel efficient, low emissions. Let the American Consumer Rule. After decades of fighting fuel efficiency and emissions standards, the chickens have come home to roost to U.S. automakers, and it isn't pretty.

    Why are ordinary American taxpayers continually pushed to pay cash for trash? Those of us who manage our household budgets, make purchases carefully, plan for our future need to stand up and say, "Game Over."

    Where are the oil companies in this? Perhaps they should share some of their obscene profits with their brothers, the automakers. Don't tell me Big Oil and Big Auto aren't good friends.

    April 5, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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