GM CEO: Be 'Confident' Buying Our Cars

Consumers should feel comfortable buying a General Motors car even as the automaker battles its way out of bankruptcy, company CEO Frederick "Fritz" Henderson told CNBC in a live interview Tuesday.

Fritz Henderson
Fritz Henderson

A day after the one-time behemoth of American manufacturing became a ward of the government, Henderson sought to assure the public that the company has a way out of bankruptcy and a strong business plan going forward.

"GM is open for business. We're there for the sale of cars and trucks, the financing of cars and trucks, the servicing and the warranting of cars and trucks," he said. "Consumers can feel very confident...if they want to buy a GM car or truck that we'll be able to service the vehicle, they'll get a warranty. We're extremely confident."

Through the bankruptcy proceeding the government will hold a 60 percent equity stake in GM , with $50 billion in taxpayer money is riding on the company's success.

Henderson said GM will be tailoring its operations to meet the challenges of the future, and rejected concerns that the government could try to micromanage the automaker.

"I've worked with them side by side through the last 60 to 90 days. What they've said is they don't want to run the company, they want to make sure the company is well-run," he said. "We've not seen the desire to micromanage the business, not at all."

One of the areas where GM will look for improvement is making sure the right cars are manufactured for the right markets, rather than looking at saturating areas with unpopular vehicles for regional needs.

Despite their relative weakness in generating profits, Henderson said the company also will continue its focus on fuel-efficient vehicles, going beyond compacts and into larger autos that nonetheless still provide economy. He said he expects consumers to continue to act as if high gasoline prices will be permanent.

"Last year when fuel prices spiked we saw what we felt was a permanent shift in consumer preferences," he said. "Even when gas prices declined precipitously...consumers were actually behaving as if prices were higher. In other words they had changed their expectations for future oil and gas prices. Therefore, fuel economy has been a significant driver of purchase decisions."

As for sales, Henderson said the March numbers should be the company's best since December though he acknowledged that the pace is still tepid.