DealZone

‘New GM’ Gets a Visit from a Shareholder

obamalordstown1 GM’s Lordstown, Ohio assembly plant has become a symbol of both GM’s hard times and its best hopes for a turnaround after a $50 billion federal investment. A recent bump in sales because of the government’s “Cash for Clunkers” program has allowed GM to call back more than 1,000 workers from layoff.   So it was a natural backdrop for a return visit by President Obama, who held a roundtable with workers and then gave a stump speech from the factory floor for his economic policies and health care reform.   But this is not your father’s GM anymore and nothing about it as clear-cut as it seems — even if you are the leader of the free world and head of the government that holds a controlling stake in the automaker.     At one point, Obama — veering from his prepared remarks — suggested that health-care reform would allow the UAW-represented workers in the audience to negotiate better wages.

“Think about it. If you are a member of the union right now, you’re spending all your time negotiating about health care. You need to be spending some time negotiating about wages, but you can’t do it,” he said.

 

In fact, the UAW locked itself into a contract limiting wages and changes to health care, without the ability to negotiate with a threat of strike, until 2015. These stands were agreed to by the union at the prodding of the Obama administration, which demanded that union autoworkers accept lower wages — as a condition to the bailout that saved Lordstown — to match non-union workers at Toyota plants in Kentucky and Honda plants in Ohio.

 

Even so, Lordstown is something of a success story for both the UAW and GM, and Obama’s remarks were punctuated with enthusiastic applause.  After winning deep concessions from the UAW in 2007, GM agreed to invest $500 million to retool the plant to make a new fuel-efficient small sedan, the Chevy Cruze.

 

Obama had nice things to say about the Cruze, which GM expects to get more than 40 miles-per-gallon in highway driving.

Driven to the brink

fritz1In Detroit, it is a fact of life that you are what you drive.

GM and Chrysler have staked their future — and some $20 billion of taxpayer-backed loans — on the idea that they can reinvent themselves as lean, green and mean manufacturers of small and fuel-efficient cars and electric-drive vehicles.

That’s a vision that resonates with the Obama administration, which has announced an ambitious target of putting 1 million plug-in hybrid cars like the much-touted Chevy Volt on the road by 2010.

But some of Detroit’s highest-profile auto executives are still driving like its 1999. Their rides still harken back to the era when they were the kings of the road.

from Funds Hub:

A loud and clear call

rtr1y8m4It may not have been a massive surprise, but ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet had an unwelcome message for hedge fund managers today.

The current crisis is, apparently, "a loud and clear call" to roll out regulation to all important market players, "notably hedge funds and credit rating agencies".

For those hedge fund managers who felt, perhaps with a degree of justification, that their industry had been relatively blameless in precipitating the current crisis, that call may have been somewhat quieter and more muffled.