April 5th, 2009
09:00 AM ET
13 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. phoenix86

    And this highlights the problem, as Obama (who had ZERO authority to do so) appointed as CEO, then the CEO's political viewpoints become the indicator to measure his performance.

    Nothing shows how Obama is socialistic more than his actions with GM.

    April 5, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  2. Wayne Allen

    I have sent e-mails to all of the auto companies along with many of the politiacians from around the staes, offering a way they could make millions of dolars a week. With no response or I am not form there political area. This plan is so simple that it would work with little work on their side. The company or if the govenment would try this they would see how easy this would work. This plan may not save the economy totaly, but it would help alot more than what is being done today.
    Just need one of them to try it and see.

    April 5, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  3. Tim Duplanty

    You know what All you people keep calling President Obama a socalist. When he turns this economy around please dont reap the benefits just stay in the mud. He has already said he does not want to be in the car business. Do you not think he would rather be fixing healthcare or winning wars. This crap was handed to him by an incompetent wrongfully elected President. All you need to remember is the Reagan era he started us down the road of dergulation and now what you have is a business climate that is only satisfied with 2 or 3 hundred percent profit margins or they are ot happy. We forget that hard work pays.

    April 5, 2009 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  4. Barbara Lenhart

    The President had every right to demand the CEO resignation as a condition to more of my tax dollars. This is the reason I voted for him. You want my money that this is what you'll have to do for it. Many years ago there was a company called Eastern Airlines. Had a president stepped in at that time the company would still be here. But because an arrogant, greedy Lorenzo and an equally greedy Union Leader were left to their own devices the company went under after Lorenzo stripped it of every asset. Those lawyers are still being paid when people like me lost my job, and my the pay they owed me. So do what you have to Mr. President. This gentleman that replaced the CEO is cut from the same cloth. Let's get somone really new in charge. And if the government hadn't deregulated the airlines we still would have had PanAm, National, TWA etc. I'd rather have the government regulating companies than taking away my individual rights as a citizen of this great country.
    Again Obama had ALL the authority he needed when determining where MY money is going.

    April 5, 2009 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  5. Amy-Proud Texas Educator

    In response To Tim Duplanty
    I will not reap any rewards from Obama you know why cause I am a hard working American that pays my bills on time, pays my mortage, and also pays my car payment on time. I don't need the government welfare programs to help me I do it cause I believe in THE AMERICAN WAY, hard work leads to success. So you can take all your Obama plans to dummy down and bankrupt our country I will do my part in making sure I elect a conservative leader in 2012. Stop blaming Bush and Regan that's getting very old, your man Obama is making everything worse, THIS IS HIS ECONOMY NOW, you might want to let him know because he just keeps campaigning.

    April 5, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  6. simonsays

    It's nice that he thinks we should respect looking after the tax payers money. How about the unions getting on board with that thought?

    April 5, 2009 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  7. jj

    And he shouldn't........

    We the tax payers own GM and that should be said over and over on the media!!!

    April 5, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  8. FreeNLovIT

    Totally irresponsible... Totally morons... We need to brew new generations of leaders with honesty, integrity, honor and vision for America. We cannot continue on the path of playing golf and mastering a piece of paper called MBA, BA. I feel like we're dying a spiritual death in America.

    April 5, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  9. FreeNLovIT

    Where are the Demings? Where are the Fords? Where are the best and the brightest?

    April 5, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  10. MBFLA

    Just wish Obama had been as tough with the financial institutions as he is being with the auto industry since it was the financial institutions with the help of deregulation that caused this mess.

    April 5, 2009 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  11. eugene onegin

    We have been defrauded long enough. If BHO wants to fire somebody why not the president of the U.A.W. or Tim the tax evader?

    Do the kind thing and pull the plug.

    April 5, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  12. marianna

    GM will take the taxpayer's bailout money first, and then will go into bankrupcy, of course, after paying out the executive bonuses. Why not?

    April 5, 2009 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  13. eugene onegin

    Let President Pulousi Galore handle it!

    April 5, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  14. marianna

    We'll take your money for the crappy cars we make to sell you, or, if you don't buy our cars, we'll take your money, regardless.

    April 5, 2009 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  15. Terry

    A couple of thoughts ...
    1. The current generation of business leaders is the most lackluster generation of economic leaders that America has ever endured. We invented the TV; we buy TVs from Japan. We invented the computer; we buy computers from China. We invented the (mass produced) car; our car companies are going broke. We invented computer programming; our Chinese computers are programmed by highly knowledgeable programmers from India. Our CEOs do not make products; they make deals. Our CEOs do not think past tomorrow's stock price. This is not to say that the current generation of CEOs has done nothing but drive America off a cliff. They have given us Netflix and the IPod and they do occasionally sue our children for downloading songs.

    2. Those tax money who complain that corporations are misusing their tax dollars need to relax. Our tax dollars are going to pay for Clinton's impeachment trial. We're about ten years behind in our payments. The money for corporate bailouts was borrowed from China.

    April 5, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  16. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Why can't American car makers build the type of cars that Americans WANT?

    I am talking about those folks who buy the foreign cars that are actually not foreign at all since they are made right here in the US.

    American manufacturers: check out WHAT we are buying and WHY we are buying it.

    Start with quality, then try to make it at a reasonable cost, and I don't mean inflated. We won't buy it!

    April 5, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  17. Dan, TX

    According to FOX News, GM has always made the cars Americans want and we are destroying the company by asking them to make fuel efficient cars that Americans don't want. LOL!

    FOX News (parroting the Republican party) also says that most of the $787 Billion stimulus money won't be spent until after 2011. Unfortunately, this is a lie according to the CBOE. They intend this lie to be a criticism of Obama that the money won't be spent within the next 2 years. However, if that WAS true, it would be GREAT. If the economy recovers by 2011, we can just stop that spending and use it to pay off the deficit. Win/Win for Obama. Lose/Lose for Republicans.

    April 5, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  18. Fed Up

    Any business that is unable to produce and sell a desirable and competitively priced product deserves to go out of business. Our government has no right to take money away from cash strapped families to prop up failing businesses. I feel badly for those who would lose their jobs, but they will find something else to do just like those who used to make horse wagons, vinyl records, and beta max tapes.

    April 5, 2009 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  19. Alan

    phoenix86 - you just showed your complete lack of understanding when it comes to how businesses operate.

    When a business needs capital to survive or to expand it turns to banks or investors to provide that cash. In this case WE became the investors, handing over billions.

    Venture capitalists do this all the time - but they also take some degree of MANAGEMENT CONTROL in return, to protect their investment, including but not limited to sitting on the board of directors, putting in a CEO of THEIR choice, etc. You don't like it in your business? DON'T TAKE THEIR MONEY.

    We, the people are now major investors in GM and Chrysler and that means WE GET A SAY IN WHAT THEY DO AND HOW THEY DO IT.

    What you seem to want is the same crap Bush forced us to live with. Just give them the money and stand back and watch. They'll do the right thing. They're BUSINESSES!

    I see IDIOTS.

    April 5, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Jim

    Don't let the Republicans miss direct the American people. This whole mess is about unfair trade in this country. Free trade and world economy has raped the USA of every good paying job we use to enjoy. Bring back the tariffs and problem solved for the working people.

    April 5, 2009 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  21. how about cleaning the slate?

    just fire all the execs and start over

    April 5, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  22. ib

    Obama is tough on everyone except Dodd and Frank who are behind and responsible for this mess as much as anyone. But what do you expect from the king of hiring tax cheaters.

    April 5, 2009 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  23. minan59

    Tim Duplanty
    Well said sir. You are spot on with your assessment.

    April 5, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  24. Tayo

    @phoenix86,all you seem to do is find fault in what obama did,either rightly or wrongly.If you have an incompetent manager in charge of your asset or investment,dont you think you've got a every right to know if the investment is managed properly.Its all about optimal service delivery for every taxpayer cent invested in GM,not socialism

    April 5, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  25. Ken Sawyer

    This has got to succeed with this government running it. I am sure their stock will go up. I can see the investors lining up now.

    April 5, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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