Marry Barra and a new era at General Motors

1 2015 Cadillac Escalade

What a difference a couple of years makes. GM was left for dead by many after the 2008 economic meltdown. In our polarized political climate, it seemed that watching GM collapse was essential to validate their view of the world. The notion that the government would extend a lifeline and not let GM and Chrysler liquidate was heresy in many circles. Never mind that it would have decimated countless auto suppliers as well and destroyed hundreds of thousands of jobs.

The auto bailout, however, was much more than a government handout. It was an event that made it possible to make stryctural changes to GM that were necessary for the company’s survival and long term health. But even after the bailout, many were skeptical that GM could survive, let alone thrive. This is where the new management team found itself, and they deserve credit for moving the company forward. BusinessWeek noted the progress as GM made the hsitoric announcement that Mary Barra would take over as the new CEO:

As Barra takes charge, GM is looking stronger than it has in decades. It’s in its third straight profitable year and feasting on the fruits of bankruptcy, which in its case include lower labor costs, less debt, and the elimination of weak brands and redundant dealers. Brian Johnson, an analyst with Barclays (BCS), expects it to earn about $6 billion in 2013. As the automaker sees the benefits of all the products it’s launching and additional cost reductions, its profit could reach $10 billion in 2017, according to Johnson. In 2010, GM had the second-biggest initial public offering in U.S. history; shares are trading at a high; the company returned to the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index; and it won back an investment-grade credit rating for the first time in eight years from Moody’s (MCO). Warren Buffett has been buying the stock. China, where Buick is a status symbol—it was the ride of China’s last emperor—is now the company’s biggest market.

And GM is no longer “Government Motors.” On Dec. 9, the day before Akerson announced his retirement, the Department of the Treasury, which had been selling about 1 million GM shares a day as the year was ending, declared it had sold the last. The federal government will recoup about $39 billion of its $50 billion investment. Supporters of the Obama administration’s decision to take over GM, who now include Akerson, contend that the jobs saved at both the company and its huge network of suppliers more than repaid U.S. taxpayers. According to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., the takeover preserved 2.6 million jobs in 2009 at automakers and companies that depend on the industry. The center calculates that a collapse would have eliminated $284 billion in personal income in 2009 and 2010 and cost the federal government $105 billion in unemployment benefits and reduced Social Security contributions. GM says it has invested $8.8 billion in U.S. facilities since 2009 and created 25,500 jobs for new and existing workers.

Barra’s promotion is historic given her gender, but it also marks a new era in the history of GM. The bailout years are now behind the company, and Barra has an opportunity to continue the progress made over the past 5 years. Read the entire article, as she seems particularly qualified to lead this effort.

  

GM bouncing back strong

Don’t mess with the General. GM announces the addition of a 3rd shift at Lordstown as the automaker ramps up for the new Chevy Cruze. If this vehicle is a hit GM will be “cruzing” into the Spark launch in the near future.

From the Detroit News:

General Motors Co. has invested $1.4 billion in more than a dozen plants and created about 5,500 jobs since emerging from bankruptcy court in July.

The investment and job moves are a stark contrast to last year, when GM shed factories, implemented unprecedented production cuts and slashed thousands of jobs in bankruptcy.

GM emerged from bankruptcy with about $50 billion in federal aid.

Read the full article here.

  

Judge clears the way for GM to emerge from bankruptcy

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They did it. Most of the experts said the government could reorganize GM through bankruptcy in such a short time, but now a judge has cleared the way and the “new GM’ will emerge as a new company.

The path is now clear for General Motors to leave bankruptcy protection in record time as a leaner company that is better equipped to compete in a brutal global auto market.

On Thursday, a judge’s order allowing GM to sell most of its assets to a new company went into effect, despite a last-minute appeal by plaintiffs in a product liability case.

GM spokeswoman Julie Gibson said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Gerber’s order became effective at 12 p.m. EDT. GM lawyers are working on paperwork to close the sale as quickly as possible, after which GM would leave bankruptcy protection.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson will hold a news conference in Detroit Friday morning to explain executive cuts, management changes and the company’s plan to make money by emphasizing quality and fuel economy. He will be joined by Edward Whitacre Jr., who will lead the board of GM.

Once the world’s largest and most powerful automaker, the “new GM” will become government-owned, but leaner and greener, cleansed of debts and burdensome contracts that nearly dragged it into liquidation. But the new company faces tough international competition and the worst auto sales market in more than 25 years.

John Pottow, a University of Michigan Law School professor who specializes in bankruptcy, said opponents of the sale had little legal recourse to block it because their issues were shot down by higher courts in Chrysler’s bankruptcy case.

“It’s done,” Pottow said. “I knew they were dead as soon as the Chrysler case was decided.”

He expects GM to close the deal and emerge from bankruptcy on Thursday in 39 days, a record for a company its size, he said. GM spokesman Tom Wilkinson said he could not give a time frame for when the sale will close.

The “old GM” will wind down all the assets that won’t be going over to the new company. It will be interesting to see what happens to all the old GM brands.

  

Pontiac will be a “focused niche brand”

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The GM restructuring plan will kill off Saturn and demote Pontiac.

And on Tuesday, when General Motors asked the federal government for more bailout money, it also announced a reorganization plan that included demoting Pontiac to a “focused niche brand,” signaling that its lineup of vehicles would shrink and that it would no longer be a separate division.

To industry analysts and Pontiac’s longtime fans, the downgrade provides a case study of the product missteps that helped put G.M. in its precarious state, and a reminder of the dangers in straying from a successful formula.

“When you deviate too far from it, that’s when you run into trouble as a brand and a company,” said Jack R. Nerad, executive editorial director at Kelley Blue Book, whose 1968 Firebird made him feel “as cool as I could be.”

More than any other G.M. brand, Pontiac stood for performance, speed and sex appeal. Its crosstown rivals followed with similar muscle cars, giving Detroit bragging rights over the cars that Japanese automakers were selling based on quality and reliability.

Though still G.M.’s third-best-selling division, behind Chevrolet and GMC, Pontiac’s sales peaked in 1984, when it sold almost 850,000 vehicles, roughly four times as many as it sold last year.

G.M.’s chief executive, Rick Wagoner, said the company’s decision to concentrate primarily on Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick and GMC left the company with a “comprehensive portfolio.”

By many accounts, Pontiac started to falter when G.M. pursued a cost-saving strategy of providing the same cars to different divisions.

No kidding. It’s stunning that GM needs an economic catastrophe to admit to obvious truths.

This is the best thing for GM, and for Pontiac. Now, they can focus on cool cars, and maybe even recapture some of the muscle car glory of the brand’s past.

  

GM will threaten bankruptcy if it doesn’t get more aid

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The auto bailout helped to keep GM and Chrysler on life support, but GM will make it clear in it’s plan to be filed this week with the government that more money will be needed in order to avert bankruptcy.

General Motors Corp. will offer the government the choice of giving it billions more in bailout money or seeing it file for bankruptcy when it presents a restructuring plan next week, according to a report published Saturday.

The online edition of The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the competing choices present a dilemma for the Obama administration, which may fear seeing the industrial icon carmaker fall into bankruptcy and cut more jobs if it’s refused more aid.

The government has already committed $13.4 billion to GM as part of a federally-funded bailout. The automaker is expected to include its call for more funds in a restructuring plan it’s required to submit to the Treasury Department by Tuesday, though the company isn’t expected to include a dollar amount, according to the Wall Street Journal report.

However, Treasury Department officials believe GM needs at least $5 billion more in loans to keep operating beyond the first quarter, according to the report.

The key will be the plan laid out by GM. Will it have real concessions from bondholders and the union?

  

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