White House Does Not Run General Motors, Says GM CEO

ABC News' Tahman Bradley reports:

The new CEO of General Motors Corp. said in an interview broadcast Sunday that he has "several masters" including White House officials but that ultimately the Obama administration does not run his company.

"I think the administration and [the president's auto] task force have been very clear they don't wish to run GM, they expect us to get our job done," said Fritz Henderson, the new chief executive of the U.S. automaker.

"I report to Kent Kresa, he's the interim chairman of the board, the board of directors, but I also have a direct line into the president's task force. In fact, I have several masters," Henderson said.

Critics of the Obama administration's direct involvement with GM -- including forcing former CEO Rick Wagoner to step aside -- say the line between private industry and government has been breached. But Henderson seemed to suggest that government does in fact have a role to play in looking after the billions of dollars in taxpayer money loaned to the company.

"We need to respect the fact that we need to look after the taxpayer. We need to justify to the consumer and the taxpayer that we're going to succeed going forward," he said.

Last week, administration officials gave GM's restructuring plan a failing grade and asked the company to go deeper, putting on hold a loan request for billions of dollars in additional government aid. The federal government has already given the company $13.4 billion in loans. Another U.S. automaker, Chrysler LLC, received a $4 billion government loan and like GM is now seeking additional funds.   

Henderson said that all options are on the table including bankruptcy as the struggling car company reorganizes to meet administration goals. Obama officials have said that bankruptcy could be a "quick and surgical way" for GM to "clear away old liabilities so they can get on a path to success."

"(I)t was pretty clear that we needed to do what it takes to achieve the criteria that are included in the president's taskforce finding," Henderson said. "And in order to do that, you have to -- you can't rule options off the table. So you basically say, we will spend time to try to get it done outside of bankruptcy, but if we can't, we're not going to compromise our goals. We're going to get it done inside of a bankruptcy."

Henderson appeared in interviews on NBC's "Meet the Press" and CNN's "State of the Union."

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