DETROIT - General Motors' new CEO told employees that the automaker needs to make cars and trucks that are better than those of competitors such as BMW.

Former telecommunications executive Daniel Akerson, in his first webcast to employees since taking over as CEO Sept. 1, said the company needs to go into "attack mode" to stay ahead of rivals, according to a worker who watched the speech on Wednesday.

The speech comes just before GM's board meets this week. Directors may set a date for the sale of GM stock to the public, perhaps in November. That sale would make GM a publicly traded company again after a radical overhaul in bankruptcy court.

Akerson, 61, told employees that GM needs to keep competitors on their heels rather than responding to what they do, said the worker, who asked not to be identified because the webcast was not public.

In his 40-minute address, Akerson, who has been on GM's board for about a year, said he is learning quickly about the auto industry but faces a large amount of information.

"He said he's drinking from a fire hose right now," the worker said.

Akerson last week replaced Ed Whitacre, who was also known for an aggressive style. He fired ineffective executives, starred in GM commercials and led the company to two straight quarterly profits after years of losses.