As the country's largest automaker works to emerge from its newly-declared bankruptcy, it will aim to make money for the U.S. taxpayer, General Motors CEO Fritz Henderson told ABC News today.
Under an agreement reached with the Obama administration, the government will invest $30 billion to support the restructuring of GM, which filed for bankruptcy this morning. The move will give American taxpayers more than a 60 percent stake in the company.
"I want them to get a fantastic return on this investment," Henderson said in an interview this afternoon. "It's our job to deliver that."
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Henderson spoke just hours after GM, with the backing of the Obama administration and key stakeholders, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The General Motors that will emerge after bankruptcy restructuring will be a leaner, more competitive company that will benefit from a $30 billion government investment but will not be subject to much in the way of government decision-making, President Obama said today.
Obama said that the government's goal will be to "get GM on its feet" through a "hands-off" approach.
"We are acting as reluctant shareholders because that is the only way to make GM succeed," the president said.
GM is now the second American car company, after Chrysler, to file for bankruptcy in just over a month.
Chrysler, which is entering into an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat, appears to be close to emerging from bankruptcy, less than five weeks after initially filing for bankruptcy protection.
Obama said that given GM's size and the complexity of the company, its bankruptcy proceedings would take longer than Chrysler's. But he suggested Chrysler's success was good news for GM nonetheless.
"Chrysler's extraordinary success reaffirms my confidence that GM will emerge from its bankruptcy quickly and as a stronger and more competitive company," he said.
Obama said a restructuring plan devised by the president's auto task force, GM and its stakeholders is "a viable, achievable plan that will give this iconic American company a chance to rise again."
Under the plan, a larger share of GM cars, including fuel-efficient cars, would be built in the United States instead of overseas, the president said.
"In fact, if all goes according to plan, the share of GM cars sold in the United States that are made here will actually grow for the first time in three decades," he said.
But the president acknowledged the "painful toll" that the restructuring would take on GM workers and others who rely on the company. The company today announced that it would be cutting more jobs and named more than a dozen plants and parts distribution centers that are slated for closure. Thousands of dealerships are also expected to close.
Obama said that those who suffer are "making a sacrifice for the next generation" to ensure that "your children and all of our children can grow up in an America that still makes things, that still builds cars, that still strives for a better future."
Henderson also acknowledged the pain felt by GM employees as well as retirees, bondholders and others.
"The amount of sacrifice being born is immense and it's a terrible thing," he told ABC News. "I think it's our job to make sure that that sacrifice is worthwhile and that we do this once and that we do succeed."