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Whitacre talks to The News about Volt, bailout critics, more

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Whitacre talks to The News about Volt, bailout critics, more

The Detroit News

In an interview Thursday with Detroit News Washington Bureau Chief David Shepardson, GM Chairman and CEO Edward Whitacre Jr. talked about a range of topics, including criticism GM has faced since its run through bankruptcy last year. Some excerpts from their conversation, which took place in Traverse City before Whitacre delivered a speech at the auto industry's annual Management Briefing Seminars:

GM's highly anticipated extended-range electric Volt:

The vehicle, Whitacre said, will be released in November, and not a month earlier as he had suggested some weeks back.

Workers at the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant are producing eight to 10 Volts a day, Whitacre said.

He rejected as "ridiculous" criticism that the $41,000 price tag is too expensive.

"I wish we had thousands more (Volts) but we don't," Whitacre said. "I think it's a very fair price. It's the only car that will go coast to coast on electricity without plugging it in, and nobody else can come close."

GM's purchase of subprime lender AmeriCredit:

"When you own somebody, you can tell them what to do. It strengthens the (Initial Public Offering of company stock, expected in November) because it shows we have a credit organization just like Ford and Toyota." Whitacre said the $3.5 billion AmeriCredit purchase "will increase our sales by a substantial amount," by making financing available to more people who want to buy cars.

Congressional critics of auto bailouts:

Calling the criticism "all political," Whitacre said despite the potshots, "we're going to succeed."

GM has been rapped for its ads, featuring Whitacre touting the company's claim that it had "repaid our government loan in full, with interest, five years ahead of the original schedule." About $43 billion of the $50 billion in U.S. government bailout funds that GM received were swapped by the government in exchange for a 61 percent majority stake in GM.

Whitacre acknowledged that the automaker could have done better in explaining it, but emphasized the ads weren't untruthful.

"We did make it clear that there's still an equity piece owned by the government, but we have paid the loan back and that's a big number," he said.

Changes in GM's marketing strategy:

Whitacre said he didn't like a series of ads featuring former NFL star Howie Long. "It didn't do anything for me," Whitacre said. We're just changing everything in marketing. There's nothing left unchanged in marketing, going forward."

GM hired a new ad agency and scrapped the celebrity endorsement approach.

From The Detroit News: http://detnews.com/article/20100806/AUTO01/8060381/1148/auto01/Whitacre-talks-to-The-News-about-Volt--bailout-critics--more#ixzz0vpaPExJS

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