Monday, April 27, 2009
Auto Task Force-GM to shed 23,000 jobs, kill Pontiac brand
WASHINGTON – General Motors Corp. will cut an additional 7,000 to 8,000 factory jobs in the United States, kill the Pontiac brand and shed 2,600 dealers by 2010 under a revised business plan developed under the Obama administration's eye.
The plan, along with an offer to bondholders to exchange $27 billion in GM debt for about 10% of a reconstituted GM and a small amount of cash, makes clear that the automaker's fate over the next few weeks rests with President Barack Obama. His auto task force set the terms of the bond deal and the goal of having 90% of the debt exchanged, and the U.S. government would become GM's majority shareholder if the plan succeeds.
GM Chief Executive Officer Fritz Henderson warned today that should the exchange not meet the task force's target, GM would file for bankruptcy on or before June 1. To succeed, GM will need thousands of GM debtholders to agree -- from individuals to some of the largest investors in the world -- by May 26.
"It's not impossible, but it’s a tough task," Henderson said, adding: "If we were to materially fall short, we would fall into a bankruptcy process."
As part of the debt offer, GM said, the administration would consider converting 50% of its loans to the company into GM stock. Combined with a similar request to the UAW for converting half of the $20 billion owed to a retiree health-care trust to shares, the plan envisions the government owning at least 50% of a reconstituted GM and the union holding about 39%.
Obama's auto task force said in a statement today that GM’s offer was an “important step,” but noted that its concessions hinge on bondholders and the UAW agreeing as well.
“We will continue to work with GM's management as it refines and finalizes this plan and with all of GM's stakeholders to help GM restructure consistent with the president’s commitment to a strong, vibrant American auto industry,” the task force said.
The new plan Henderson unveiled would get GM to profits in a U.S. market of 10 million vehicles -- a far lower rate than GM imagined just a couple of months ago. Should the debt swap succeed, GM will cut its debt by $44 billion and its structural costs by 25% by 2010.
"The objective here is not to survive, the objective is to develop an operating plan that allows us to win," Henderson said.
The new job cuts bring the total number of hourly jobs eliminated under GM’s plan to 21,000 by 2010 and 23,000 by 2011. GM said additional cuts among salaried workers would be expected, but did not give a specific target. As it had indicated earlier this month, GM now plans to close 13 plants by 2010 and an additional five plants by 2012.
Henderson said the Pontiac brand would be closed by 2010, calling it an “extremely personal decision.” In addition to speeding up decisions on Saturn, Saab and Hummer, GM will be left with four brands – Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac.
He said while talks continue on Saab and Hummer, there was no deal on the table yet for Saturn that would allow GM to keep building those models beyond this year.
GM said it now expects it will need $27 billion in total from the Treasury to withstand the recession, including the $15.4 billion it's already received. That includes $2.6 billion it will need this quarter and an additional $9 billion after that, some of which includes the cost of deeper job cuts and plant closings.
Henderson said dealers targeted for closing would begin hearing from GM in a matter of weeks. Dealers have been apprehensive about a GM bankruptcy, but it's not clear how quickly GM could close outlets given a bevy of state laws protecting dealers.
Through the cuts in brands and models, GM will shed 14 models through 2010, although the Chevrolet Volt electric car remains on track for a 2010 launch.