Bailout Watch 369: GM Clueless on Brands. Still.
On March 31, President Obama will contemplate GM’s viability report and decide whether the ailing American automaker is, as it contends, “viable.” If so, more bailout bucks. If not, more bailout bucks, in the form of debtor-in-possession financing to the bankrupt behemoth. Either way… In the run-up to CEO Rick Wagoner’s ritual disembowelment for failing to get his company’s shit together, the press is sensing the fact that Wagoner doesn’t have this shit together. This morning, Automotive News [AN, sub] reports on GM’s continued cluelessness on the “pssst. want to buy a dead brand” front. “Just a couple of weeks before General Motors has to submit a detailed plan proving viability, GM executives have no idea what to do with their losing brands.” Yes, AN has found its inner TTAC, affirming my suspicion that the MSM is gradually turning against Detroit’s mindless mega-suckle.
GM asked various companies to run Saturn and absorb the dealerships, provide product lines and perhaps rename the brand, says a source. Under that scenario, GM no longer would own part of Saturn. But no one was interested…
According to a dealer familiar with the talks, options include allowing dealers to buy the brand, blending Saturn into the Buick-Pontiac-GMC channel, finding an outside investor to finance an upgrade of the product lineup and finding a global partner.
GM hopes to make Saab an autonomous company, the source says. That means moving production, engineering and marketing to Sweden and pulling Saab out of GM’s global product and manufacturing system.
“We’re trying to see how much of Saab we could isolate,” the source says.
The next step is to secure funding from the Swedish government to help Saab run on its own. Saab hopes to launch the next 9-5 large sedan and new 9-4X crossover next year. The Swedish government has offered aid but does not want an ownership stake.
GM put Hummer on the block last summer and knowledgeable sources say there is an interested party. But sources close to GM say Hummer’s financial situation will make a deal difficult.
One source says it’s hard to build a business case for the brand, especially in view of coming U.S. fuel-economy standards. And the current global economic slowdown makes it unlikely that international sales could rescue Hummer.
GM is asking $500 million for Hummer but likely would settle for less, says a source close to the discussions.
No, we’re not starting a whip round. AN says GM may just close the dead brands and take the heat from franchisees. The “you try suing the federal government” approach would immerse GM in 50-state lawsuit hell. And what about Pontiac and Buick? What’s the plan there? At least we know what’s going on with Cadillac and Chevy’s product plans. Oh wait…
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Can someone tell me about the exciting new cars that GM will be producing in the next 24 months that will persuade me from buying a Hyundai (either Genesis, Sante Fe, or Elantra Touring)? Like most customers I compare price and standard features, warranty, reliability and financing.
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