The S&P 500 has closed out its first annual advance in two years, underpinned by strength in the technology and materials sectors on hopes that the economic recovery will spur a rebound in capital spending and fuel demand for natural resources.
When I heard about GM keeping its Opel unit, that line from a song by British band Coldplay came to my mind. After all those long nights of paltering on job cuts and money, GM was having a change of heart.
Arzu Cevik, director at Thomson Reuters Strategic Research, writes:
“With Citi shares trading below $1, the first time since 1970 that a “penny stock” traded on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, it is widely expected that it will be removed from the index.
Around 200 union workers and some local politicians protested wage cuts and other givebacks required by the Bush administration’s bailout of General Motors and Chrysler.
“The call for wage cuts is an attack on the middle class,” said Rex Lux, a truck driver at Chrysler who said he had come to the rally to show his support for organized labor. “The middle class send their kids to college, they buy cars and they keep the American economy going.”
“Why break the middle class?” he asked.
The protest in Warren, Michigan, came two days after a smaller rally (pictured above) outside the Detroit auto show by members of the United Auto Workers union.
The $17.4 billion federal bailout for the U.S. automakers includes concession targets such as making union-represented workers’ wages competitive with foreign manufacturers by December 2009 and eliminating the union jobs banks, which pays laid-off workers.
Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker (right, in the driver’s seat next to Mark Fields, Ford’s president of the Americas), who pushed for tough conditions on the $17.4 billion U.S. government bailout for General Motors and Chrysler, said at the Detroit auto show that he hoped Chrysler would find a merger partner to survive.
This post was written by colleague Christiaan Hetzner.
Listening to GM Europe CEO Carl-Peter Forster (right), there is a big side benefit of having the thankless job of running a business in danger of being dragged under by its foundering parent.
For one, you are not publicly humiliated by lawmakers with an ax to grind the next time you try and hit them up for aid.
Whereas U.S. congressmen eager to score points with taxpayers were just itching to take turns tag-teaming his boss Rick Wagoner, Forster said he is treated with far more respect and understanding by the German and Swedish governments when he participates in discussions over receiving billions in state loan guarantees. GM is looking to sell its Saab brand in Sweden.
Asked at the Detroit auto show whether the talks were considered in Europe to be as controversial as those in Washington, Forster replied: “Interestingly enough, the Europeans take a very, very different approach. Much less hostile, virtually not hostile at all, seeing the automotive industry as a very important industry.”
GM Europe has a funding requirement peaking this year, in part due to this year’s roll-out of the new Opel Astra and Saab 9-5 cars, key models for both brands.
“They (state officials) understand the extraordinary circumstances in Europe — by the way, the circumstances in the U.S. are even more extraordinary than in Europe. They know how important the industry is for the European economy and particularly for certain member states like Germany, France, Italy, the UK and so on. Absolutely no hostility, very open, understand the situation and try to come up with a solution.”
Perhaps lawmakers in the more socialist governments across the Atlantic better realize what would happen if Opel or Saab cannot get the loan guarantees needed to access to the European Investment Bank’s 16 billion-euro fund for the European auto industry, which is only open to companies with an investment grade rating.
Reeling from crisis and in hock to the federal government for $13.4 billion, General Motors spent only about half of what it normally spends on its display at the Detroit auto show this year. There were no pyrotechnics, no marching bands, no celebrities, no models.
Don’t put any money down for a high-end electric car just yet.
General Motors has no current plans to make the Cadillac Converj (right), a luxury concept of the Chevrolet Volt plug-in electric car that was introduced at the Detroit auto show, said Mark McNabb, North American vice president of Cadillac/Premium Brands.
GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said during the show the Volt remains on track to launch by the end of 2010. Showing off the Converj, Lutz said GM is confident enough about the Volt technology that the company can start looking at Volt derivatives.
The Volt, which is being designed to run for 40 miles on battery power alone, will not be profitable until battery costs drop and one way to do that is to increase volume on the model. Offering the Converj would help, while also attracting higher profit margins.
However, if the U.S. automaker decides to move ahead on the well-received Converj, a production version could look close to the concept, McNabb said.
“It was done more to measure a little bit how the luxury market would assess ‘green.’ It is what it is. It’s just really an exploration into green versus luxury – can it be done and all that.”
McNabb pointed out the Converj is based on existing technology.
“It’s not like a pie-in-the-sky concept where you can’t build it or it’s years and years before you could. It’s more a concept of ‘let’s measure how luxury will accept this type of vehicle.'”