Bloomberg reports that a “person familiar with the matter” says the US Treasury won’t sell its remaining stake in GM as long as the automaker trades below its $33/share IPO price. Previously the government’s auto team had said it would not try to “time the market” and our analysis showed that the Treasury was likely to sell sometime late this Summer. But it’s been months since GM spent more than a few days above its IPO price, indicating that Treasury may be waiting considerably longer if the IPO-price floor is set in stone. And with $36.5b in cash equivalents on hand and only $5b in debt, GM’s $45b market cap is hardly encouraging… especially with investors waiting for The General to match Ford’s profitability levels. Heavier discounts mean a lower operating profit for GM in the US market, and the first quarter shows a $1b swing in pricing between the two firms (with Ford improving $700m and GM dropping $300m) according to Bloomberg. Lower finance earnings are also holding The General back relative to Ford. So, what’s GM’s response?
Steve and Sajeev: I was hoping to pick your brain for a second regarding the used Prius market right now. Help a Hammer Time follower out! I own a 2010 base Prius (Model II), and I have been seeing listings at local dealerships for base model Prius’s (????) selling for 3-4K above new MSRP prices. For instance there is one with 15K on the clock selling for 27K, when new the MSRP was around 24K.Is this actually occurring right now or are these people out of their minds? My wife and I were debating on selling it and buying a cheaper car with a smaller payment if we could actually make a decent profit on it. On the other hand, 50 MPG in the era of $5 a gallon gas is pretty great. Its a gas! Thanks for your time.
And Sajeev, I always wanted a Mercury Marauder!
As China’s car market no longer delivers the obscene growth rates it used to deliver (pretty hard when you compare with prior-year months where car sales jumped nearly 100 percent), carmakers are looking for clever ideas to light a fire under their Chinese sales. They all come up with the same solution: Attractive loans.
But nobody wants them. (Read More…)
Some of the world’s biggest automakers are relying on continued strong growth in the Chinese market in the face of sluggish US and European sales, but those plans are facing a challenge as Chinese sales have slowed this summer. Total vehicle sales grew 14.4 percent over July 2009 levels last month (sales grew 70 percent year-over-year in July 2009), the lowest rate of growth the Chinese car market has seen since March of last year. China’s government is doing its part, instituting a $443 subsidy for cars with 1.6 liters displacement or less in the beginning of July. But that doesn’t seem to be helping much, as the percentage of cars with 1.6 liter engines or smaller actually declined last month. What’s a growth-addicted automaker to do (besides slash prices)? The same thing they do in every other market: extend credit in hopes of boosting sales and upselling customers on more expensive cars.
The WSJ [sub] reports that GM is officially looking outside of its former captive finance arm Ally Financial (formerly GMAC) as it seeks more subprime loan deals to drive sales volume ahead of its IPO. GM execs tell the WSJ that The General could do even better with an in-house finance arm, but that these deals will help. And, according to Experian Automotive’s Melinda Zabritski, GM needs the help because
By not financing [subprime] consumers, they are locking out about 40% of the U.S. population
GM’s restructuring consultants AlixPartners add that loyalty improves for customers who buy using a captive lender. The downsides? Higher default risks, the temptation to overload on incentives, and then there’s one more biggy…
Whenever the insane growth rates of Chinese car sales come up, there is one inevitable comment: ”Wait until credit tightens. Those sales will come crashing down.” My (in the meantime canned) answer: “China isn’t America. In China, people usually buy their car with cash. Financing is rare. Leasing highly uncommon.” Apart from being smart not to pay interest on a depreciating asset, the Chinese have all reason not to lease. Case in point: An email I received today. (Read More…)
Ever since a debt crisis toppled the already-precarious auto sector into undeniable crisis there’s been a running debate about when US car sales would “return to normal.” By now though, even the most ardent bulls seem to have accepted that 2007′s 16m number will be out of reach for at least several more years. So, how will we know when we’ve hit the new normal? According to Edmunds, at least one statistic roared back to 2006 levels last month: the percentage of sales financed at zero percent.
In March, more than 22 percent of financed new cars were purchased with zero-percent finance deals. Last March the total was just 13 percent. The prior high was 21 percent in July 2006.
According to Detroit lore, Henry Kaiser once loudly threatened to throw one hundred million dollars in 1940s money towards the greater glory of Kaiser Motors, drawing a bemused chuckle from GM Chairman Alfred Sloan who quipped “give the man one chip.” Fast forward to 2009, and Coda Automotive, a firm hoping to sell Californians a $45k EV-ified Hafei Saibao Sedan, just scored $25m in funding reports Earth2Tech. That gives the firm a total of $74m raised so far, although the current round of funding won’t closed for another few months, say spokespeople. The latest money, from Aeris Capital, will be spent on “final safety certification testing,” as well as scaling up battery production. In short, Coda is almost-not-quite all the way to one chip in the car game… but that’s still only good for one roll of the dice. Even the weakest automakers have many multiples of that sum in their Treasury escrow accounts. And even the allegedly “bailout free” automakers get to raise debt with a little help from their government friend, TALF.
Speaking to Bloomberg yesterday, GM Sales Boss Susan Docherty called December’s sales results “very encouraging.” Her argument: heavy fleet sales in December 2008 explain why December 09 results look worse by comparison. But spinning sales results as the product of conscious fleet percentage reductions is just one longstanding GM tradition that Docherty indulged in: talking points touting falling incentives and improved inventory weren’t far behind. None of which is necessarily indicative of a satisfactory performance. In fact, if you dissect the spin, it’s clear that what lies beneath is not nearly as attractive as the PR would have you believe.