DETROIT – General Motors’ CEO said Wednesday that he expects the company to steal sales from rivals in the United States this year as its new cars and trucks gain traction with customers.
Daniel F. Akerson told reporters that he sees a modest gain in U.S. market share, helped by the rollout of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks and two Cadillac sedans. He also expects the company to do well globally during the next two years.
“The sun will be on our backs. These will be good years,” he said.
Akerson, 64, spoke here at a morning round-table meeting with reporters. After his positive forecast, GM’s stock price reached a 52-week high of $30.28 before pulling back in the early afternoon.
Despite turning big profits last year, GM stumbled in key areas. Its U.S. market share slipped from 19.6 percent to 17.9 percent, the lowest share in recent history and perhaps the smallest since GM was founded in 1908. GM’s sales grew by less than 4 percent in the United States, compared with total industry growth of 13 percent.
But Akerson said GM charged high prices and made good profits on cars and trucks despite having the oldest model lineup in the U.S. industry. GM has pledged to redo or update 70 percent of its lineup in North America by the end of 2014.
Chevrolet, which saw sales rise by 4.3 percent last year, should see bigger growth because of the new pickups and other vehicles, he said.
Akerson predicted that Cadillac would take market share from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and Audi. Cadillac introduced an ATS small sports sedan and the XTS large sedan last year, and it will get new or updated versions of its other models this year.
“I do think we’ll grow faster than the market,” he said. “Certainly that’s our hope, and that’s our expectation. I can't guarantee the future any more than you can,” he said.
GM expects total U.S. sales to rise to 15 million or 15.5 million this year, from 14.5 million in 2012.
Akerson, a former telecommunications and private equity executive who has been CEO since August of 2010, expects to be in the job next year. But he wouldn’t comment beyond that.
Also during the hourlong discussion at GM’s headquarters, Akerson said:
• GM is negotiating with the United Auto Workers about a lump-sum buyout of worker pension plans. Currently, GM’s U.S. pension plan’s assets are $13.4 billion less than its obligations. GM last year offered lump-sum buyouts to white-collar workers and shifted pension responsibilities to an insurance company annuity in an effort to reduce the obligations.
• The company hopes to regain investment-grade credit status this year. GM is working with credit rating agencies to raise its status from junk, where it has been since 2005. Akerson said the company’s recent $11 billion credit line received investment-grade rating, showing that banks are ahead of the ratings agencies.
• The federal government’s plan to sell its stake in GM – which is currently 19 percent – by early 2014 should help the company attract more customers.