Speaking to General Motors' Annual Meeting of stockholders, the company's Chairman and CEO, Rick Wagoner, was generally upbeat about the progress of GM's restructuring plan, pointing to a profitable first quarter in Europe, strong growth in the Asia Pacific region (particularly China), and rising sales in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East as evidence of the company's success globally.

With respect to the all-important North American operation, Wagoner was bullish on the success of its recent "launch vehicles" (GM-speak for new models), such as the Chevy HHR, Saturn Sky, Pontiac G6 convertible, HUMMER H3, and new full-size SUVs, predicting that launch vehicles would account for fully 30 percent of GM U.S. sales in 2006, and about 40 percent in 2007.

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Answering a question from the floor on the possibility of slimming down GM's elaborate brand structure, an issue raised by board member Jerry York back in January when he suggested selling off the Saab and HUMMER brands, Wagoner said GM was not planning to drop any of its eight brands.

On the cost-cutting front, Wagoner predicted that GM would succeed in cutting $7 billion in structural costs in North America by the end of the year. With respect to operating costs, Wagoner cautioned that rising raw materials costs may cause the company to fall short of its goal of a $1 billion cost reduction for this year.

Tops on Wagoner's "to do" list going forward:
  • maximizing the UAW employee buyout program
  • the Delphi restructuring
  • closing the sale of General Motors Acceptance Corp.
  • new product launches (Saturn Aura, Outlook and Vue hybrid, GMC/Chevy full-size trucks, GMC Acadia, and Buick Enclave)
  • ramping up E85 production

As the meeting continues Tuesday, GM's management faces voting on tough proposals from shareholders, including one to split the Chairman and CEO positions currently held by Wagoner.

[Sources: GM, Reuters]