GM CEO sees US sales gains this year
Also during the hour-long discussion at GM's Detroit headquarters, Akerson said:
— The company hopes to regain investment-grade credit status this year. GM is working with credit rating agencies to raise its status from junk, where it's been since 2005. Akerson said the company's recent $11 billion credit line received investment grade rating, showing that banks are ahead of the ratings agencies. Companies with investment grade ratings can borrow money at lower interest rates than those with junk status.
— The U.S. government's plan to sell its stake in GM by early 2014 should help the company attract more customers. Some people won't buy from GM as long as the government owns a stake, which is currently 19 percent. The government owned as much as 60 percent of the company after bailing it out in 2009. Taxpayers, however, are still roughly $22 billion in the hole on the $50 billion bailout.
— GM should be able to cut its European loss by one-third to one-half this year even as the region's economy falters. The company predicts that Europe will be profitable by 2015. GM has lost billions of dollars in the region in the past dozen years.
— GM has discussed with the United Auto Workers union about a lump-sum buyout of worker pension plans. Currently GM's U.S. pension plan's assets are $13.4 billion less than its obligations. GM last year offered lump sum buyouts to white-collar workers and shifted pension responsibilities to an insurance company annuity in an effort to reduce the obligations.
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