Fritz Henderson, shown at a news conference last month, had been scheduled… (Jeffrey Sauger / Bloomberg…)
General Motors Co. Chief Executive Fritz Henderson stepped down today, signaling continued turmoil over turnaround efforts at the troubled automaker.
Board chairman Edward Whitacre Jr. will temporarily take over the CEO spot until a permanent replacement is found, GM said.
"We all agreed more changes were needed," Whitacre said to reporters in a press conference in Detroit.
Henderson, a longtime GM veteran, was named to the top executive job in March, following the removal of his predecessor, Rick Wagoner, at the hands of the Obama administration. Soon thereafter, he took GM into bankruptcy and since then has overseen its emergence and push to reduce costs, workforce and vehicle brands.
Henderson had been scheduled to give the keynote speech at the Los Angeles Auto Show on Wednesday morning. A GM spokesman said that Bob Lutz, the automaker's head of marketing, would instead make that presentation.
Whitacre, who was named chairman in June, with backing from the White House, has repeatedly voiced support for Henderson. But the past few months have been rocky at the automaker.
In recent weeks, a plan to sell the European division Opel was reversed and GM will keep the operation. Meanwhile, deals to sell the Saab and Saturn brands fell through, and unless buyers are found, those brands will be shuttered by year's end. And a bid to sell Hummer to a Chinese manufacturer has been hobbled by regulatory questions.
GM has continued to lose market share since emerging from bankruptcy, but did announce this month that it intended to begin paying back next month $6.7 billion in loans it received from the U.S. government.
"We now need to accelerate our progress toward that goal, which will also mean a return to profitability and repaying the American and Canadian taxpayers as soon as possible," Whitacre said.