By on May 4, 2010

The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a public interest group dedicated to free enterprise and limited government, has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, alleging that a recent advertisement from GM claiming to have “paid back government loans in full” is deceptive [full complaint in PDF here]. You might be able to guess why the CEI finds the GM ad so misleading, but if not, their explanation is after the jump.
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By on April 21, 2010

Taxpayers, your partial refund is in. Now quick, make with the pension bailout and EV subsidies. Oh, and be sure to pick up a new Chevy, Cadillac, Buick or GMC as a “thank you” present for this act of patriotic largess.
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By on April 19, 2010

GM’s government-installed Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre hasn’t been wildly popular with Detroit insiders, earning dismissive raspberries from more than a few corners of the industry’s peanut gallery. But now that his reign of executive terror is over, Detroit seems to be learning how to stop worrying and love the former AT&T man. As Whitacre prepares for his first visit to Washington DC as head of GM, the local media and other members of “Team Detroit” are making their peace with Whitacre. So what lies beneath the new united front?

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By on April 14, 2010

Don’t ask Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre. His only comments so far on GM’s Q1 2010 performance comes from a memo leaked to Reuters, in which he says:

In January, I said we could earn a profit in 2010, if everything falls into place. Our first quarter financial results will show us an important milestone, and I’m pleased to say that I anticipate solid operating results when we report our first quarter financials in May

By on March 8, 2010

One of the arguments in favor of GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre’s use of AT&T corporate jets is that “given the role he plays and the decisions that need to be made worldwide, you want this guy to be working 24/7.” But like so many of the “answers” we’re given about GM’s turnaround, this merely raises another question: besides learning such arcane auto-industry jargon as the term “segment,” what exactly is Ed Whitacre doing at GM? Thus far, the answer seems to be “firing executives,” as the last several months have seen a number of executive reshufflings at the RenCen. And though GM’s bailout left a number of GM lifers in positions they had mishandled prior to bankruptcy, the recent firings and re-orgs aren’t simply motivated by the desire to revitalize GM’s corporate culture. A look inside Whitacre’s reign of terror shows a more traditional GM impulse at play: the desire for quick spikes in volume.
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By on March 8, 2010

The personal transportation choices of auto executives has always been an easy point of reference for members of the mainstream media looking for an easy story. From Alan Mulally’s Lexus to Akio Toyoda’s Davos Audi getaway, auto execs’ use of non-company vehicles is always good for a quick “gotcha” headline. But no story in this rich oeuvre has had quite the impact of Jet-Gate, the name given to the mini-scandal that erupted when the executives of Ford, Chrysler and GM arrived in Washington DC for bailout hearings in three separate private jets, prompting derisive comments from members of congress. The PR misstep has haunted Detroit ever since, inspiring federal rules barring bailed-out automakers from using executive jets, and making transportation choices for auto-related DC hearings a major priority for automaker PR: Toyota’s Jim Lentz clearly had the episode in mind when he arrived for recent hearings in a recalled and repaired Toyota Highlander. And thanks to a recent revelation about GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre’s use of executive jets, furor over auto-exec transportation is clearly a long way from playing itself out.

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By on March 5, 2010

Recently-reassigned Cadillac boss Bryan Nesbitt isn’t the only GM exec paying the price for weak Cadillac sales, as Automotive News [sub] reports that GM has terminated three other Caddy executives.

Cadillac’s Steve Shannon and John Howell were dismissed Monday, said eight sources familiar with the moves. Jay Spenchian, an executive director who worked on Cadillac and other brands, was also let go, the sources said.

By on March 2, 2010

Motor Trend reports that former PT Cruiser stylist Brian Nesbitt has been relieved of his duties as the head of Cadillac, ending GM’s post-bankruptcy experiment of putting a stylist in charge of an entire division. But MT figures that Nesbitt’s ouster isn’t as simple as a failure to perform; according to their sources, the firing was political.

The shakeup has major implications for Bob Lutz’s future at GM. He hired Nesbitt away from Chrysler earlier last decade and made sure there was a place for the PT Cruiser designer at post-bankruptcy GM. Nesbitt’s departure would indicate Lutz’s role as one of three GM vice chairmen has diminished to almost nothing… Clearly, [recently-promoted sales boss and President of North American ops Mark Reuss] is putting his own team together, and it doesn’t include Nesbitt, who was posed as the aesthetic face of the Cadillac luxury division.

By on February 26, 2010

It’s been over ten days since GM’s Bob Lutz took to the local papers to complain that GM’s executives are “way, way, way underpaid,” and its still been less than a week since Ed Whitacre’s $9m compensation package was announced but politicians are only now starting to sit up and take notice. Barney Frank (D-MA) can usually be counted on to give greedy CEOs a good dressing-down, but at this point, Mama Frank seems to have given up on the government-owned automaker’s execs. The Detroit News reports Frank’s mild disappointment thusly:

“I don’t think Mr. Whitacre was going to go do something else” if he got paid less, Frank told reporters this afternoon after a hearing. “He’s having a good time there. I think they way overcompensate themselves.”

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By on February 20, 2010

Gosh, was it really just Monday that Bob Lutz was complaining about the pay problems round General Motors way? Automotive News [sub] reports that, in addition to hiring ousted CEO Fritz Henderson as a consultant, GM’s Chairman, CEO and VP for Rattlesnake Killin’ Ed Whitacre has been handed a compensation package including $1.7m in cash annually. Not to mention the $5.3 million in stock payable over three years starting in 2012, or the $2m in restricted stock. Sure, that’s not much compared to most Chariman/CEO types, but it’s not bad for a government teat-sucking, profitless wonder. Especially considering former CEO Fritz Henderson only made $950k in cash annually plus $4.2m in stock as CEO (he now makes $700k annualized as a 20 hour per month consultant). Ken Feinberg is slacking!

By on January 25, 2010

GM boss Ed Whitacre just finished a brief and unenlightening press conference, in which he revealed that he will remain as permanent Chairman and CEO for the foreseeable future. Whitacre refused to set expectations for how long he would remain at the top of the government-owned automaker, simply saying he would stay “for an adequate amount of time to do what we need to do.” He does not anticipate the appointment of a separate President, COO or Chairman of the Board, leaving him in full control of the company. Whitacre also announced that an already-planned payback of $6.7b in government loans would take place in a lump-sum payment this June. He also clarified that GM was in “advanced talks” with the Dutch firm Spyker over the fate of the Saab brand (or what’s left of it) but that GM has not reversed its decision to wind the brand down, and that he had no announcement of any new deal with Spyker. Saab enthusiasts had hoped Whitacre would announce a Spyker deal at today’s press conference. Meanwhile, Saab hopeful Genii Capital has announced the withdrawal of its Saab bid. Otherwise, Whitacre said he was “encouraged” by GM’s situation and that the his emphasis would be on “fine tuning” going forward.

By on January 25, 2010

The Detroit News reports that General Motors will call off its search for a permanent CEO today, as Chairman and interim CEO Ed Whitacre will become the firm’s permanent CEO. A press conference is scheduled at the Renaissance Center for 11:30 ET today, but at least one question appears to have been answered already. More details as they become available.

By on January 19, 2010

Busted! (

In case you were wondering, Ed Whitacre’s assessment that the Volt will “make a margin” at a price point “in the low 30s” is the GM Chairman/CEO’s second big lie in as many weeks. Well, lie might be a bit harsh. Gross and willful misrepresentation is probably more accurate. GreenCarReports‘ John Voelcker got in touch with a GM spokesman who confirms what we all pretty much knew from the get go: GM “has not officially announced final Volt pricing, a price in the low 30’s after a $7,500 tax credit is in the range of possibilities.” In other words, we’re back to the same old $40k-ish number that GM execs have been throwing around for ages. Unless GM is talking about the electric-only (non-range-extended) Volt that Bob Lutz recently confirmed. But what about the margin thing?

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By on January 18, 2010

By the power of government intervention! (

Subtitle two: we don’t believe a word of it. The report comes from an exclusive interview of GM Chairman/CEO Ed Whitacre at the Volt fanboy site GM-volt’s Lyle Dennis asked Whitacre if GM would lose money on every Volt it sells, a fact that GM executives have never tried to substantively deny. Until now. Whitacre’s answer:

“We’re not in business to lose money,” he said. “We did enough of that already.”

The Volt “is going to sell in the low 30s,” said Whitacre. “We’ll get a margin on that.”

Oh really? Because it sure seems that GM plans on selling the Volt for $39,500-$45,500, and that the “low 30s” number is dependent on a tax credit. As for Whitacre’s claim that the Volt will make profit, the lack of time-constraints on his prediction is all you need to know. With enough sales and over enough time, almost anything will create profit, especially if the government is distorting the battery market for you. Meanwhile, GM still has to overcome $40k sticker shock (sorry, but you can’t exactly advertise post-tax break prices) and at least a few years of loss on the Volt. But if the gm-volt comments section proves anything, it’s that you can never go wrong misleading the fanboys.

By on January 11, 2010

Yuk it up... (courtesy:DetNews)

It’s a bit early in the day to be crowning a QOTD, especially considering there are sure to be plenty of juicy quotes coming out of the NAIAS today. Still, this one deserves a special place at TTAC for the sheer bold-faced shamelessness of its untruth.

I think (the government bailout was) well placed, and I think they’ll make a lot of money. GM’s on its way back. We’ll be back. The government’s made a good investment. We appreciate their support. We’re glad they’re here.

So said GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre to reporters from the Detroit News today. As I recently explained in an op-ed in the NY Times, unless GM’s market cap soars to its highest level in history (a pipe dream if ever there was one) the taxpayer losses on the GM “investment” will be in the billions. Even the government estimates losses on the GM and Chrysler bailouts to reach $30b. Whitacre surely meant that a GM IPO will generate some kind of money for the Treasury’s 60 percent stake in GM, but the way it came out makes it sound like the bailout will be a positive investment for the government. That’s an impression that GM desperately needs to foster in order to have a chance at emerging from government control. Too bad it’s just an old-fashioned fib.

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