Road Shows

AUTOSHOW/At the Geneva auto show, General Motors is getting down to the business of convincing European governments to pump state funds into its Opel/Vauxhall arm. Europe has long been considered one of the more profitable corners of the globe for GM. The company is talking about closing three plants there and warning officials that there will be liquidity problems at Opel/Vauxhall early in the second quarter if they don’t pony up.

Leveraging similar tactics it used in the U.S., GM is telling European leaders that the aid it needs — whatever the final price tag — will cost less than an Opel/Vauxhall failure. This is an argument likely to find more traction in Geneva than it did in Washington, where socialism is not a word used in polite company.

Meanwhile, the great race for global funding is picking up speed. Toyota, the world’s biggest auto company, is looking for dollars to keep its loan business competitive in the shrinking global auto market. Ford is again reported to be shopping Volvo in China. At speeds like these, avoiding a huge smash-up before the next big turn would be a miracle.

Deals News:

* Air France-KLM will launch a tentative bid for Czech Airlines (CSA) within weeks as European carriers regroup in the face of a downturn that so far shows no signs of easing, its chief executive said.

* Royal Dutch Shell said it plans to accept BG Group’s improved offer for its stake in Australian coal seam gas firm Pure Energy in the absence of a higher bid, helping the British firm move closer to a takeover.

Senator, can you spare a dime?

The Detroit Three automakers go to Washington today, armed with fresh restructuring plans they hope will convince federal lawmakers to open the bailout spigot. For General Motors, Ford and Chrysler the stakes couldn’t be higher.

GM has been reviewing its already revamped business plan and may take steps that include dropping or selling off the Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands. Ford, seen as the strongest bet to survive of the three because of its better cash position, is considering the sale of Volvo. And Chrysler, seen as the most vulnerable of the bunch, finds itself having to spell out the reasons it needs federal funds even though it’s also looking to hook up with foreign automakers.

As IHS Global Insight analyst Aaron Bragman says: “Just as General Motors is too big to fail, Chrysler is too small to survive on its own.”