EUROPE: GM has lost $16 billion in Europe in the past 12 years, but it’s trying to resuscitate the business with cost cuts and new products. CEO Dan Akerson said this week that European operations are making progress toward profitability and he expects them to break even before taxes by the middle of this decade. Reaching that goal will be tough, though. The company expects to lose $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion in Europe before taxes this year, and analysts say it has 20- to 30-percent more factory capacity in the region than it needs. Closing more plants will require drawn-out negotiations and expensive buyouts of union workers.
LEADERSHIP: Akerson became CEO in September of 2010, GM’s fourth leader in two years. He took the reins as the company’s recovery from bankruptcy was hitting its stride. The board hoped his background in private equity would give him a fresh perspective and allow him to shake up the slow-moving company. Despite streamlining decision-making, many in the company view him unwilling to listen. He recently removed the heads of sales, marketing, and Europe, which some critics viewed as too much change too fast. Akerson has pushed to bring products to market faster, but has hit resistance from engineers who fear that quality could suffer. Finally, he has bred resentment among employees by complaining that GM’s culture is risk-averse and slow. ‘‘If I'm told the culture I've been brought up in is bad, then it’s almost like a personal insult,’’ said Michel Anteby, a Harvard Business School professor who studies organizational behavior. Anteby says it takes longer than two years to change a company the size of GM.