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Whitacre Named As Permanent CEO at General Motors

General Motors Chairman and interim CEO Ed Whitacre is dropping the interim from his title as the automaker's CEO.

Ed Whitacre
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Ed Whitacre

Whitacre announced the change this morning at GM's Detroit headquarters.

The 68-year-old Whitacre had been GM's interim CEO since last month, when the company's board ousted former CEO Fritz Henderson. He says GM's board asked him to become permanent CEO last week.

Whitacre is the former CEO of AT&T . He was named chairman of GM last summer after the automaker emerged from bankruptcy.

Whitacre has said he wants to increase GM's sales and market share while shifting the company's focus from trucks to cars. He's also aiming to repay $8.1 billion in U.S. and Canadian government loans by the end of June.

The move has been seen as all but certain since Whitacre, 68, announced on Dec. 1 that he would take over as acting CEO after predecessor Henderson was ousted after eight months.

Whitacre, the former chief executive at AT&T, became GM chairman last July at the request of the Obama administration as the company emerged from a government-sponsored bankruptcy that included more than $50 billion in financing.

Whitacre has said Chris Liddell, who joined GM as chief financial officer from Microsoft, is a leading candidate to succeed him.

In December, Whitacre announced a shake-up of the automaker's senior leadership, tightening his hold on GM's reins and installing a new group of executives to head the automaker's troubled U.S. operations. GM has lost $88 billion since 2005.

Whitacre has said the automaker could post a profit this year as it aims to relist its shares as soon as late 2010.

The company had hired Spencer Stuart to look for a permanent CEO, but the executive search firm never presented a list of candidates to the board, people familiar with the matter have said.

Henderson, 51, was a career GM executive who had risen through company ranks and steered the automaker through its 40-day bankruptcy.

Rick Wagoner, 56, was CEO from 2000 until last March, when the Obama administration's autos task force ousted him. Henderson and Wagoner each tried to remake GM into a leaner and faster-moving company, but both were seen as acting too slowly and without the credibility of an outsider.

The three U.S. automakers—GM, Ford and Chrysler Group—now have chief executives who made their careers outside Detroit.

Alan Mulally, who became Ford's CEO in 2006 after leaving Boeing , has reshaped the No. 2 U.S. automaker and steered it clear of a federal bailout.

Chrysler is led by Sergio Marchionne, also the chairman of Fiat SpA, which took management control as part of the automaker's government-brokered bankruptcy.