This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," July 10, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
JENNIFER GRIFFIN, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: Just when he thought he was out, they pulled him back in.
General Motors Vice Chairman Robert Lutz planned to retire but now is staying on at G.M. as it fights to survive. Moments ago, he went "On the Record" about GM's exit today from bankruptcy protection and the future of the company.
GRIFFIN: Vice Chairman Lutz, thank you for being with us.
ROBERT LUTZ, VICE CHAIRMAN, GENERAL MOTORS: Good to be with you, thank you.
GRIFFIN: So you were supposed to be retiring, and they have asked you to stay on to oversee this new G.M. What is going to be new about G.M., and why should someone buy a G.M. vehicle?
LUTZ: The key reason to buy a G.M. vehicle is not because it's the G.M. or we have emerged from bankruptcy. It's the fact that over the past five years, we have completely revamped our product line up, and I would now say that we are building the best cars and trucks in General Motors' history.
And that's not just us saying it. That's generally corroborated by the special press and witnessed by all the power of the year and truck of the year honors we have gotten. So that is the number one reason.
But I think that the buying public can have a lot of confidence in us because, for the first time, we are a fully competitive company with a sound balance sheet, with a lot of the billion dollar legacy costs and interest charges going.
So we are now going to be a very much leaner company. We are no longer debt-ridden. We are going to move fast. We have consolidated down to four brands. And I think this is a very, very fast-moving and a very successful company.
GRIFFIN: Tell me about those four brands. How did you decide which to keep, which cars to keep making? We heard talk of the red hot Camaro that is going to be manufactured. Tell us how you chose which brands to keep.
LUTZ: The Camaro is not only going to be manufactured, it has been in production in a couple of months, and it is selling at a furious pace. In sales terminology, they call it white hot. And we are retailing about 9,000 a month. So it's an amazing success. And we have not even started advertising the vehicle yet.
So how did we select the brands? It's very interesting. Chevrolet is one of the largest brands in the world. It's approaching 5 million units of sales in the world. So even if Chevrolet were an independent car company, it would be large.
And it's our value brand around the world, whether it's the east block, or Middle East, Africa, or Asia, Chevrolet is our core brand.
Cadillac is another no-brainer. It is a luxury brand. I don't think a multi-brand companies can really exist without a luxury brand at the top. So Cadillac is one of our focus brands, and it is also an important brand for us in what is now the world's largest automobile market, and that's China.
GMC is a solid brand. It is perhaps the General Motors brand with the best overall reputation and the strongest brand health in that people, a lot of people say if I'm going to buy a truck, I want and GMC. So it's a very powerful, strong truck brand. And frankly, it's a brilliant financial performer two.
And Buick, now we get down to the choice, do we keep do we keep Pontiac. I am personally a big Pontiac lover, and I love what they stand for, I love all of the cars that Pontiac is doing today, which, unfortunately, are going to go away.
GRIFFIN: Let me interrupt for a second and ask you -- sorry for the delay, but let me ask you -- I am not hearing you talk about any hybrids. Are you under pressure from the government to make these more fuel- efficient? These do not sound like a new fuel-efficient vehicles.
LUTZ: I was afraid that we would get under a lot of pressure from the government, because that's what everyone was saying. The government is going to make you do nothing but green cars. And my worry initially was if they do that, they are going to make us produce vehicles that the American public does not really want to buy.
Happily, as I got to know the members of the task force, I realized they had one overriding objective only, and that is to make General Motors into a streamlined, successful company.
And they absolutely want us to keep producing Camaros, keep producing corvettes, keep producing full-size pickup trucks, keep producing sport- utilities, and so forth, provided, and this applies to every other car company, we have to meet the future fuel economy regulations.
So as long as we have the technology in the vehicles that meet the fuel economy regulations, the U.S. government absolutely wants us to keep her fulfilling the needs and desired of the American public because they realize this is the only way we are going to be successful, and it's the only way the taxpayer is going to get her money back.
GRIFFIN: Let me just quickly ask you about this case being brought by Stillwater Mining. They are saying that you are breaking a contract with them and buying over in Russia and South Africa platinum that they make, and that this is going to hurt them, they are going to lose a lot of jobs, thousands of jobs and $50 million.
How do you respond?
LUTZ: I respond by telling you it's the first I have heard of it and I know absolutely, totally nothing about it.
GRIFFIN: OK. And how many jobs will be lost in the restructuring? How many plans will actually be closed to create this new G.M.?
LUTZ: Well, I think we have said that there are additional plant closings. And not being responsible for manufacturing, I am not going to start listing plants and say which ones are in what country or region.
As Fritz Henderson reiterated today, we are going to reduce our salaried and hourly employees in the United States by 35 percent. And we hope to eliminate a lot of executive positions, because we now have a much leaner company. We are going to eliminate layers of management, and we're going to increase control.
So we are going to get down to 60,000 employees or so in the United States, and, of course, that is a drastic reduction from what we used to have.
And all of us a very much regret seeing people go and seeing plants closed. But that is just the way it is. When a company has to go adjust to a much smaller market size, which we have, we are currently about 9.8 million vehicles a year for the entire industry, which is just about half of the 17.5 million that the US was selling just a couple of years ago, you have to make the downward adjustment.
And the suppliers do, and the suppliers to the suppliers. I mean, that's life.
GRIFFIN: OK, thank you Robert Lutz, vice chairman of the new GM. Thanks for being with us.
LUTZ: Thank you, very much.
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