New GM chief says won't deviate from predecessor's plan

General Motors Co's new chief executive, Mary Barra, said on Thursday she has no plans to deviate from predecessor Dan Akerson's strategy as GM seeks profitability everywhere it operates.

"There is no right or left turn," said Barra, who took the wheel from Akerson last week as chief of the biggest U.S. automaker.

"If I had to say it in one word, it's 'accelerate,'" Barra said, when asked at her first meeting with reporters as GM CEO what changes could be made.

Akerson, during his tenure of just over three years, led GM through an initial public offering, drove the company to record profits and to leading positions in China and the United States, the world's top auto markets. On Akerson's last full day running the company, GM announced it would pay the first quarterly dividend of its common stock since June 2008.

Barra vowed to maintain a "fortress balance sheet," which has been a mantra among executives at GM since 2010, the year after the company emerged from bankruptcy.

The appointment of Dan Ammann as president will allow a greater focus in each of the world's regions and speed up GM's plan to boost profit globally, Barra said. Ammann, who was previously chief financial officer, was named president the same day that Barra was named CEO.

GM said last week that its expected modest growth in the United States and China would help fund about $1.1 billion in restructuring costs in its weaker regions, including Europe. It also said it expects a slight uptick in operating profit this year, an outlook that analysts called conservative.

GM in 2013 was the second largest global automaker by sales, behind Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and just ahead of Volkswagen AG .

(Reporting by Ben Klayman and Bernie Woodall; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Leslie Adler)