It’s T minus 11 days before Congress does the thumbs-up thumbs-down thing on the artist formerly known as the world’s largest automaker. GM is up shit creek without a paddle. The United Auto Workers aren’t going to agree to parity with the transplant assembly workers, as required. The bondholders aren’t going to exchange debt for equity, as required. The company doesn’t have a clue what to do about its brands or products, as required. There is no way whatsoever for GM to prove to your elected officials that it has a hope in hell of repaying the $13.4b loans already made—never mind the $100b or so needed to keep the ailing American automaker in business for another year. So GM CEO Rick Wagoner is doing the only thing he knows how to do, that he can do: cutting expenses. This time, it’s white collar workers for one simple reason: that’s all that’s left. Bloomberg tells of the $14m per year CEO’s decision to throw his remaining management to the wolves . . .
OK, so the latest GM Fastlane PR exercise is actually entitled “What Is GM Doing With The Money?” Defensive much? Anyway, coming from Fastlane, there’s obviously no mention of giving Cadillacs away. Or throwing cash down the Delphi hole. Or paying Brazilian workers to sit on their hands. No, having received $13.4b, GM’s Steve Harris reveals that GM’s plan is to (wait for it) comply with the terms of the loan! In other words, “prove that we can repay the loan, achieve a positive net present value, and meet federal fuel efficiency and emission requirements, and manufacture advanced technology vehicles in the U.S. ” And with the federal money, GM is “making progress,” says Harris. How? By building concepts like the Cadillac Converj. And announcing vehicles like the 2010 Equinox (Saturn Vue cannibalism!) and the 2012 Spark and Orlando (which debut after the loan is due). Hallelujah! And though Harris mentions the UAW Job Bank shutdown and “discussion” of plans to reduce dealers by 400 per year, his effort to “do a better job of communicating our successes (and) how we will be changing going forward” leaves out all the interesting bits.
CNN Money reports that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) has pulled the “Clunker Culling” proposal from the economic stimulus plan making its way through Congress. The provision would have provided up to $4,500 in tax credits for scrapping a used vehicle with under 18 mpg and replacing it with a new car. The bill would have cost taxpayers up to $16b, according to CNN, which notes that lack of support from Republicans doomed the bill. Why? Apparently, “the provision required that the [new] vehicle be assembled in the United States.” Who knows, maybe common sense even had anything to do with it. President Obama did not take a strong position on the Clunker provision according to the Detroit News, but he is vocally backing $2b in battery development spending and a $600m purchase of fuel-efficient cars for the government fleet.
If you’re familiar with Delphi—a former GM division with the words “bankrupt since October 10, 2005” over the door—then you’ll know that they’re a not-so-hidden cancer on GM cancerous corpse. Even as The General seeks to survive with a federal IV stuck in its metaphorical artery, it continues to peel off just enough cash—now your cash—to keep the parts maker making parts. For vehicles no one’s buying; but that’s how the industry doesn’t roll these days. So, some bad news from the oracle then. First, GM’s told their pals at the SEC (accounting scandal forgotten) that they’re accelerating a $50m payment to Delphi. [NB: Delphi had asked GM for a $100m hurry-up.] Can you say running on fumes? Delphi can. “The Company believes the amendment and accelerated GM support will enable it to preserve available liquidity given the difficult economic environment, particularly in the global automotive industry,” Delphi said in a filing with their pals over at the federal bankruptcy court. Judge Robert Drain, no less. And the cutbacks keep on happening!
Or so goes the logic of Brent Snavely and friends over at the Detroit Free Press. Sales down 37.1 percent? The lowest seasonally adjusted annual selling rate (SAAR) since 1982? No way is it going to get worse before it gets better! “This is not real. This is artificially low,” says Jesse Toprak, executive director of industry analysis for Edmunds.com, who goes on to warn that “the industry might not recover without some sort of external stimulus.” Not here, not now! And yet in the midst of all this turmoil, a strained and unconvincing optimism abounds. Well, at the Freep anyway . . .