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Whitacre: Profit for GM in 2010; Saab wind-down likely

by Andrew Ganz

General Motors interim CEO and Chairman of the Board Ed Whitacre told reporters today during a roundtable interview that he thinks the beleaguered Detroit automaker will turn a profit in 2010. He also commented on the unlikelihood of a last-minute savior for Saab and his opinions on the next CEO for the automaker.

"We have metrics established, and [we are] holding people accountable," he told reporters. "We're after profitability first [ahead of increasing market share] We're in business to make a profit."

"We are focused on the revenue side," he said. "You can always take out more costs."

Saab suitor likelihood dwindling
Whitacre told the roundtable that he is "not confident" a deal could be made for Saab "given what's happening here and the speed with which it's moving."

"We said, 'Just show up with the money and you can have it,' and they haven't shown up with the money," Whitacre said. "But nobody's shown up with the money so we're in wind-down mode here."

Executive changes slowing
Whitacre also stated that he thinks current CFO Chris Liddell, an ex-Microsoft cost-cutter who was recently instated into the executive position, would make a good CEO for the company to replace ousted chief Fritz Henderson.

Executive changes are almost complete now that a handful of GM's top Washington, D.C., lobbyists have been replaced with some of Whitacre's allies from his days as head of AT&T. Whitacre said that his goal is to improve GM's relationship with Washington, which was soured by the controversial federal bailout last year.

"That left not a good taste in some people's mouths," he said. "But I think most people are willing to give us a chance."

Dealers to be reinstated?
After GM's drastic dealer cuts last year, Whitacre says that the company will expand its sales network. He expects "hundreds" of disgruntled dealers to be reinstated thanks to a series of upcoming arbitration hearings. More than 1,300 dealers slated for closure have been allowed to request independent reviews to challenge GM's decision thanks to a legislation signed by President Barack Obama.

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