New General Motors CEO Daniel Akerson (Courtesy: GM)
DETROIT (AP) -- A frustrated but upbeat General Motors CEO told employees that he's working to wipe out fiefdoms that remain in the company and to bring its culture into the 21st Century.
Chief Executive Dan Akerson told workers during a meeting Thursday that GM has made progress in shrinking its bureaucracy, but he urged them to be leaders and to fix problems rather than being told what to do.
"You shouldn't stand around waiting for somebody to tell you where we're going to go," the former telecommunications and private equity executive said. "We've got to get this company and the culture into the 21st Century."
The town hall meeting, which employees could phone into, gave Akerson a chance to reassure the rank-and-file after a series of management changes at the top, including the ouster of GM's marketing chief. The company also reported a 41-percent drop in second-quarter earnings last week, due mainly to losses in Europe.
A participant on the call allowed an Associated Press reporter to listen. GM said Akerson holds similar meetings nearly every quarter.
The CEO also told workers he's confident GM will fix its European operations and its stock price will rise. He backed that up by spending more than $500,000 of his own money to acquire 25,000 GM shares on Wednesday. He's bought them before -- the last time was August 2011. He also gets stock under his compensation package. Altogether, his GM stock is valued at more than $5.5 million, according to a regulatory filing.
GM's stock price rose 30 cents, or 1.5 percent, to $20.68 per share on Thursday.
At times during the meeting he appeared frustrated, but said he is streamlining the company's management to make it more focused on brands and customers. He praised factory workers for spotting and fixing problems, singling out workers at the company's compact car plant in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland.
"People are getting it. We're making improvements," Akerson said.
But he said the company is still too complex, and told workers it is behind competitors on engine and transmission technology.
By Tom Krisher, Associated Press