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General Motors will repay government loans by June 30, CEO says

December 16, 2009|By Dana Hedgpeth

Detroit — Fourteen days after taking the helm as chief executive of General Motors, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. said the giant automaker, which went through a major bankruptcy restructuring this year, plans to repay loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments by the end of June.

In one of his first face-to-face meetings with reporters at the company's headquarters in Detroit, Whitacre talked about a variety of topics, including his visit to an auto plant last week in Flint, Mich., shuffling top managers and the company's strategy of improving its vehicles, sales and brand image.

"We have to convince the consumer of North America that what we have is the best, and we're going to set out to do that," he said. "When you lose your reputation, it's hard to get it back."

The company owes the U.S. government roughly $6.7 billion out of $50 billion in assistance it received from the U.S., Canadian and Ontario governments. The U.S. government now has a 61% stake in the automaker.

Whitacre said his initial reaction when Treasury Department officials called to ask him to become chairman of GM as it came out of bankruptcy was to decline. But, he said, he decided, "If I can help, I'll come do it, and that's why I'm here."

This month he became CEO after Fritz Henderson abruptly resigned after only eight months on the job.

Hedgpeth writes for the Washington Post.

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