General Motors CEO, Dan Akerson, discussed some of the issues plaguing GM's share price in today's Wall Street Journal. Akerson laments a bloated bureaucracy at Government Motors that has not greatly improved since the company's 2009 bankruptcy process. Despite admitting that the bankruptcy was rushed through without proper planning, the Obama-appointed Akerson did not mention the continued UAW overhangs at the company.
The new General Motors will be turning three years old in early July. GM's rocky childhood has given evidence to what disadvantage small investors are at when it comes to making educated equity investment choices. Let's look at some of the lessons to be learned from one of history's largest busted IPOs (along with the recent Facebook debacle) and consider the current underreported risk factors.
CBC News reports that an Ontario General Motors' plant where Chevy Impalas and Equinoxes were built will be closed down, costing Canadians around 2,000 jobs. GM reportedly plans to partially move production of the Impala to its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant in Michigan. You may remember the Hamtramck site from the Chevy Volt commercial which trumpeted the building of Volts there. It now seems that low demand for the Volt has led to the plant having enough time to build other, conventionally-powered vehicles. While the Volt may have been the car GM "had to build," it appears that consumers would "prefer" them to build cars like the Impala.
General Motors reported that Chevy Volt sales for May came in at a paltry 1,680. To put this in perspective, GM sold 29,579 Chevy Malibus during the month. The funny thing is, I do not recall seeing as many TV ads for the Malibu as I have for the Volt. While GM's ad strategy (which has seen the company discontinuing advertising on Facebook and the Super Bowl) has received much attention, auto journalists and analysts do not seem to want to question the reason why GM is spending such a disproportionate amount of money advertising a vehicle that is losing money for the company and its shareholders.
The Department of Transportation and NHTSA have announced that a "technical symposium" will be held on May 18th "to discuss safety considerations for electric vehicles powered by lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries." In addition to NHTSA's presentations, the Department of Energy, automotive manufacturers and battery makers will participate. Given the bias of the participants, the symposium sounds like it is going to be less informational and more infomercial.
When JPM Chase reported that it had lost $2 billion recently on risky derivative trades, the predictable call came from the Obama Administration to increase regulation on banks. The hypocrisy of the politically motivated proclamations becomes evident when you compare the JPM trades to Treasury's continued gamble on its taxpayer funded stake in General Motors, which has suffered an approximate $5 billion loss in value over the past year.
The Obama Administration has become quite the expert on bankruptcy filings. The Detroit Free Press reports that the third auto bailout partaker, Ally Financial, has filed bankruptcy for its mortgage subsidiary, ResCap. The government still owns 74% of Ally, and now has an 0 for 3 record on restructuring bailed out auto-related companies outside of bankruptcy.
One of the most egregious abuses of the Obama Administration's auto bailouts was the blatant favoritism evidenced in the treatment of Delphi (General Motors' parts supplier) retirees. After the Delphi bankruptcy, UAW retirees had their pensions "topped off" by General Motors, apparently with taxpayer money accessed through TARP. While the UAW retirees maintained their pension benefits, non-union, salaried retirees of Delphi lost theirs. There was no logical reason for one group to have their pensions saved while another group lost theirs, just the facts that the distributions were inequitable and the only difference between the groups was that one belonged to a powerful ally of Team Obama and the other did not.
Last week's earnings report from General Motors revealed a troubling statistic for shareholders. GM's market share for North America shrunk from 18.3% a year ago to 16.7% for the latest quarter. Not coincidently, a survey by Yahoo Autos revealed that a full 13% of consumers would now "never" consider purchasing a GM vehicle while another 15% are less likely to purchase. A negative perception of the auto bailout process and the continued political overtones at GM are the reasons for the boycott.