Former General Motors Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson now knows what he didn’t know then: the automaker’s cultural problems ran deeper than he realized when signed on in 2009.
Appointed by the Obama Administration to the automaker’s board and later taking over as CEO in 2010, Akerson told the Detroit News that recent recall crisis shows him that the problems with the company’s culture were worse than he imagined.
“I think we all — including the new and the old part of the management team — didn’t fully realize how deep some of the problems ran,” said Akerson. “I think we built a good foundation. I think the company needed a lot of change, and I said a lot of that culture wasn’t where we wanted it to be.”
Akerson left the company in January, earlier than expected, to take care of his wife, Karin, who is battling cancer. His early departure led to speculation that Akerson and other senior executives knew about problems with the ignition switches for earlier than they claim and appointed Mary Barra as his replacement because she would be a more sympathetic figure.
He dismissed those thoughts as ridiculous, adding, “fools can say anything.”
“We have four women on the board,” he told the News. “You’d have to be so cynical. You’d have to be a terrible person to even (think it).”
Reiterating his earlier claims that he doesn’t think that Barra knew anything about the problems with the vehicles either, he praised Barra’s handling of the events to-date adding that he speaks with her regularly. In fact, until recently, he was still on the company’s payroll as a consultant.
Akerson believes he if he had remained CEO and been called to testify, he may have had an easier time of it before the committees due to his lack of time with the automaker.
(Akerson claims Barra didn’t know about the problem. For more, Click Here.)
“I think it would have been easier for me to defend the company, because quite frankly I thought Mary got treated a bit unfairly by virtue of, ‘You’ve been with the company 30 years. Why didn’t you change things?’” Akerson said during the interview.
(Click Here for details about the investigation of GM by 45 attorneys general.)
“I could have said, ‘Hey, look, we had to change 30 things. This one dates back to eight, 10 years ago.’ It’s a little unfair, but life isn’t fair, and you own the problem.”
(To see more about the strong car sales in the U.S., Click Here.)
Known for being direct and no-nonsense, he said he actually told the News what he would have said to the committees, if he had been in front of them: “I’ve been here 3½ years. I’ve had a raft of problems every year, and we addressed them straight up and don’t blink and we try to solve them.”
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