The auto industry, including Detroit manufacturers, reported strong sales numbers for the month of August. Sales for the industry rang in at pre-recession levels hitting over 16 million units on an annualized basis. While General Motors got its fair share of the wealth, one unusual tactic to drive sales stands out. That is the use of "stair-step" incentives which are paid to dealerships in the month following the reported sales.
The US Chamber of Commerce's "On the Road with Free Enterprise" tour has quietly entered its second month. The main story currently on the "Free Enterprise" website is a piece titled "First Ever Sushi Tech Combats Fish Fraud." The fact that General Motors is hypocritically co-sponsoring a free enterprise tour might bring to mind the words fishy and fraud as well.
"Beneath the deep purple cuts of healthy tuna and the smell of fresh wasabi, there lies a sushi underbelly in America that will make your stomach turn," reads the first line of the all-important "fish fraud" story. Likewise, GM's anti-free enterprise bailout process exhibited an underbelly of political cronyism that turned the stomach of those (like GM bondholders and Delphi non-union retirees) who saw there rights subordinated to the politically-favored UAW.
Earlier this year, I reviewed General Motors' first quarter earnings report and annual results. My take-away from the report was that GM relied upon shady accounting techniques and a build-up of US dealer inventories to produce some rosy-looking results. Channel stuffing to the tune of an over 20% increase in inventory from year end 2011 provided for GM's revenue growth. The trend continues as GM has further pumped-up inventory for quarter one.
I recently wrote about how government-owned Ally Financial was the only big bank that failed the Federal Reserve's stress test and how that ties in to General Motors' operations. The bailed-out bank formerly known as GMAC received about $17 billion of taxpayer money as part of the auto bailout (aka bankruptcy) process. It is now possible for GM, which relies on the auto lending unit of Ally Financial, to buy back the best segment of the bank on the cheap after taking advantage of the taxpayer largesse that saved the lender.
The Federal Reserve's latest round of stress tests for the banking industry showed only one bank remaining on a shaky financial foundation. That bank was government-owned Ally Financial (the bailed-out company formerly known as GMAC), which also happens to be General Motors' prime source for financing.
Yesterday's earnings' report by General Motors threw up some red flags that I reviewed here. In recent quarters, the media seemed to give quite a bit of coverage on GM's earnings, but not so this time. I wanted to follow up and discuss what the financial news networks obviously will not.
General Motors reported earnings today that appeared non-eventful on the surface. Upon further inspection there are some underlying concerns, including a glaring one-time event that stands out. That is an adjustment to earnings with a tax benefit (as opposed to paying taxes) of $35 billion for a "deferred tax valuation release." This was coupled with a goodwill impairment charge of about $27 billion, which allows GM to reduce the previously unusually high goodwill assets that were recorded on its balance sheet.
January's dismal numbers for Chevy Volt sales may give a clue as to how successful (or not) President Obama will be in reaching his goal of having a million electric vehicles (EVs) on American roads within the next few years, a goal that is increasingly becoming unlikely. It also gives us a glimpse into a bizarre strategy General Motors has had by focusing so strongly on plug-in cars while they lose market share elsewhere. The numbers are in, and GM can proudly say that they are the market leader in an insignificant field with a paltry 1,140 Volts sold in January. The best selling passenger car on the road, the Toyota Camry, sold 31,897 during the month, giving an indication of how illogical GM's misguided focus has been.
A watchdog for the government's bailout program, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP), has hit the US Treasury Department with a hard combo of critique regarding some of the Administration's actions since pumping billions of taxpayer dollars into bailed-out companies like General Motors and Ally Financial (formerly known as GMAC). SIGTARP issued a report lambasting Treasury for allowing excessive pay for executives at GM, Ally Financial and AIG and followed that with statements that scrutinized Treasury's continued refusal to exit its stake in Ally Financial, which is currently 74% owned by the government.
Albert Einstein is credited with having defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Well, prepare for more insanity as General Motors is doubling down on green energy and plug-in cars after the disappointing sales results from previous entries into the field. The politically-motivated hype that we saw, and continue to see, on the Chevy Volt will be repeated. This time the over-hyped vehicle will be a Korean-made, all-electric Chevy Spark.