Will Underfunded VEBA Fund Enter Into GM’s UAW Negotiations?

The Wall Street Journal has reported that the UAW’s voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) fund was underfunded by approximately $20.7 billion in 2014, which was the latest reported period. The shortfall has grown from the previously reported 2013 figure when the trust was estimated to be 93% funded. The latest funding figure, which was hurt by growing medical benefits costs, plummeted to 74% in one year.

The VEBA fund was established in order to transfer liability of retiree medical benefits costs from General Motors, Ford and Chrysler (now Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) to the UAW prior to GM going bankrupt in 2009. In fact, the fund was one of the primary driving forces of GM’s bankruptcy as the company agreed to fund the account with $30 billion as part of the agreement; money they didn’t have.

Total net assets for the VEBA trust stood at about $60 billion in 2014. … Read More ➡

Barra’s Rosy Proclamations Should Embolden UAW

General Motors’ CEO, Mary Barra, continued to project a bright future for the automaker during a recent presentation to shareholders. The prognostication gave a rosy appraisement for financial estimates as far out as 2020, when Barra says GM will have between $9 billion to $10 billion in free cash flow. Her crystal ball also shows that electric cars will compete with gas-powered vehicles by 2022 and that global car sales will increase by 50% to 130 million by the year 2030.

It is very difficult to predict future profitability in the very cyclical auto industry, but GM is desperate to give its shareholders some hope. GM share price has far underperformed broader markets since the company’s 2010 IPO and still trades below the $33 offering price.  The S&P 500 index has gone up by about 70% compared to GM’s decline since trading began. Putting aside the fact that 2020 cash … Read More ➡

No Justice for General Motors’ Victims

The response of the Justice Department to General Motors’ ignition switch defect cover-up was announced last week. GM’s failure to address the deadly defect led to the loss of lives of at least 169 people. Any hopes for the families of the victims that the crony status of GM would not stand in the way of justice were squashed as the company was given a slap on the wrist by its friends at the Obama Administration.

The Justice Department’s news release regarding the meager $900 million penalty reeked of hypocrisy as it tried to paint a picture of a repentant GM while admitting the company was guilty as charged. From the release:

SIGTARP Special Inspector General Christy Goldsmith Romero said:  “General Motors’ criminal conduct found by SIGTARP and our law enforcement partners defies comprehension.   Our investigation uncovered that GM learned about a life-threatening ignition switch defect that would cause air

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GM Should Listen to Marchionne’s Pitch

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ CEO Sergio Marchionne’s quest to merge his company with General Motors continues to garner attention and draw suggestions that GM might be shooting itself in the foot by ignoring the offer to talk. Two respected sources weighed in on the drama, most notably CNBC anchor and ex-hedge fund manager Jim Cramer who has lost confidence in GM management and dumped his shares of the company.

In a TheStreet.com piece, Cramer was rightfully complimentary of Marchionne’s talents. Marchionne is a savvy leader who took advantage of the Obama Administration’s desperation, lack of vision and poor negotiating skills during the 2009 auto bailout process when the Italian automaker was given a free stake in a sinking Chrysler corporation at the low point of the auto sales cycle. Cramer was also right on point with his criticism of GM CEO Mary Barra. From the piece:

As for Cramer, he said

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Buicks Made in China – More Bad GM Timing

Rumors have circulated that General Motors is considering building Buick SUVs in China which would be sold both there and in the USA. The timing of the leaked plans could not be worse as China markets continue to collapse, spreading contagion to world markets. The timing also coincides with GM’s negotiations with the UAW, raising the suspicion that GM is using the rumor to leverage their bargaining power with the UAW.

Why is GM focusing so much on the Chinese market at the worst of times? Regardless of the weakening Chinese economy, it would be challenging to convince American consumers to purchase SUVs built in China given the perception of lower quality and safety standards. China also has not been the best of US allies considering ongoing computer hacking allegations, aggressive military build-ups and unfair currency devaluation tactics.

The UAW should call GM’s bluff on its Chinese gambit. If GM … Read More ➡

What was the Point of GM Share Buyback?

General Motors’ shares have taken a hit this week with the catalyst for the latest downturn being news out of China. Continued weakness in China (including weakening car sales) has led the country to devalue its currency in an attempt to bolster its economy at the expense of its trading partners. This latest news confirms my views that GM’s China gamble puts the company and its shareholders at increased risk. The horrible performance of GM’s stock over the past few months also brings into question the rationale for the much-hyped share buyback that was instigated by ex-Obama Auto Task Force member, Harry Wilson, in photo.

Mr. Wilson was one of the primary architects of the auto bailouts which gave about $30 billion of American taxpayer money (along with approximately $10 billion from Canada) to GM to guide them through their Obama-orchestrated bankruptcy process in 2009. Less than six years later, Wilson … Read More ➡

GM Gambles $5 billion of Dwindling Cash Hoard on China

General Motors recently announced that it will spend $5 billion on a joint venture with Chinese state-owned SAIC Motor to develop vehicles for emerging markets. The announcement came around the same time that GM reported results for 2015 second quarter earnings, which showed cash and cash equivalents decreasing $2.2 billion in the first six months of the year. Marketable securities also declined by $2 billion during that time frame.

The decision by GM to spend another $5 billion of its diminishing so-called “cash hoard” on Chinese ventures is a risky move (particularly given China’s shaky markets recently) reeking of desperation by a management team that can’t seem to maintain the company’s share price above the 2010 IPO price of $33. GM stock has been hovering around the $31 range, which reflects a drop in value of approximately 6% during a roughly five year period when the broader S&P 500 index … Read More ➡

GM Insiders Dump Another $2.8 Million Worth of Shares in June

It would appear that the insiders at General Motors do not have as rosy a view on the financial outlook for the company as they would have the rest of the public believe. The well-paid executives at GM sold out of another $2.8 million worth of shares in June according to Yahoo Financial statistics. Of course, the sales of shares are pure profits for the higher-ups at GM, considering that the elite group of executives receive millions of dollars’ worth of GM shares for free through stock options.

Heavy insider selling has been ongoing at GM since I wrote about a SIGTARP report in September of 2014 that unveiled excessive pay at GM. The report found that the top nine executives at GM saw income rise from $32,307,500 to $35,335,000 in 2013.

During the 12 month period from March of 2013 to March of 2014 eight GM executives sold … Read More ➡

GM Hypes Yet Another “Tesla Killer” – the Chevy Bolt

General Motors seems intent on becoming the global leader in producing money-losing vehicles that attempt to compete with Tesla. The latest so-called Tesla Killer from GM is the Chevy Bolt and the hype is beginning with media articles such as With Jab at Tesla, GM Amps Up Chevy Bolt Promotion, Testing. GM shareholders need this latest sequel to the Tesla Killer series as much as movie aficionados need another sequel of Police Academy.

OK, I’m sure there are many fans of the b-rated Police Academy series, just as there are fans of the previous GM versions of Tesla Killers. The difference is, b-rated movies are produced with low budgets; not so with GM Tesla Killers. GM (and taxpayers) have spent billions of dollars to produce the initial series of much-hyped electric vehicles which were never a hit with mainstream consumers. That growing list of vehicles includes the Chevy Volt Read More ➡

Will the UAW Bury GM in Upcoming Negotiations?

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United Auto Workers union (UAW) was drawing up contingency plans to strike if upcoming negotiations with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles do not satisfy UAW officials. The UAW is leveraging the good timing of the negotiations, which are occurring at the same time as the auto industry’s cyclical top.

Will history repeat itself with GM eventually driven to a second bankruptcy if the UAW is successful in raising labor costs at the automaker? The stage seems to be set for the UAW to further put unionized automakers at a disadvantage to automakers with lower labor costs in a very competitive industry. The current US hourly labor cost at GM is already one of the highest in the industry at $58 per hour. That compares to the US wages at Toyota and Volkswagen of $48 and $38 per hour, … Read More ➡