In an interview Thursday, GM CEO Rick Wagoner said his company has room for growth worldwide and will forcefully defend its title as the world's biggest automaker. Toyota announced in December a global production target of 9.42 million vehicles for 2008, which would easily exceed the 9.2 million vehicles GM is estimated to have produced in 2006. While Wagoner wouldn't reveal GM's 2007 targets, he did say GM has the capacity to build more than 9.42 million cars worldwide. As its U.S. market share shrank last year, GM cut production. But it's rolling out multiple new products, and Wagoner said the North American market should be healthier this year. Wagoner said he agreed with Ford CEO Alan Mulally that the UAW may have to make significant concessions in upcoming contract talks to keep GM competitive. He said the UAW already has helped GM with health care concessions and buyouts that will reduce its hourly work force, but that the company is not yet "fully competitive" in all aspects of its business. Asked "what if" Toyota does usurp the #1 spot, he said: "It won't be a happy day for me... We're going to fight to keep the position, and if one day we lose it, we'll fight to get it back." Separately, GM said Thursday it sold more cars outside the U.S. than domestically for the second straight year, and it hopes to ride a wave of growth in overseas markets. GM has recently implemented aggressive cost cuts designed to increase the profitability of its global product. Wagoner said the company will shave fixed costs to at most 25% of revenue in 2010, down from 34% in 2005, saying, "I think we can go beyond that."
• Sources: AP/Newsday, Wall Street Journal
• Related commentary: Is General Motors Spinning Its Wheels? [WSJ], Toyota To Become World's Largest Automaker in '07; Places Priority on Quality, GM Management Remains Stable While Other Auto Industry Heads Roll, Seven Wonders of Auto Retail for 2007, In the Kerkorian Drama, GM is the Clear Winner,Toyota Versus GM/Ford: Classic Hedged Pair Trade. Conference Call Transcript: General Motors Q3 2006
• Potentially impacted stocks and ETFs: General Motors Corp. (GM). Competitors: Ford Motor Co. (F), DaimlerChrysler (DCX), Toyota Motor Corp. (TM), Honda Motor Co. (HMC)
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