On April 1st, General Motors announced that they were having "computer system" issues and that their March sales figures would not be released until later in the day. The company eventually reported a year over year sales gain of about four percent versus an estimate of less than a one percent gain. This came as GM CEO, Mary Barra, was preparing to testify at hearings over the recent GM recall scandal which is reported to have contributed to at least 13 deaths. Coincidentally, GM share price had been taking a hit as well.
Last week AAA released findings from tests it had run on three models of electric automobiles, and announced that the heavily subsidized vehicles suffer dramatic driving range loss in both cold and hot temperatures.
The news wasn’t new, but apparently the broader media noticed because the pronouncement from the nation’s largest consumer automotive club made it official. NLPC (beginning with a Consumer Reports experience) has reported from time to time on such problems since late 2011. The Tulsa Worldreported that AAA found driving distance for electric vehicles can be diminished up to 57 percent in extremely cold temperatures, and by one-third in very hot temperatures.
General Motors continues to double down on plug-in electric vehicles, now offering the Cadillac ELR, which is a gussied up version of the Chevy Volt at twice the price. The latest Cadillac ELR ad has stirred up a lot of debate regarding its pro-American capitalism message as General Motors spent roughly $100,000 for each of the commercials that it ran during the Sochi Olympics.
Although the commercial garnered much attention, the heavy ad spending resulted in just 58 of the tax-subsidized (each affluent buyer gets a $7,500 federal tax credit) Cadillac ELRs being sold in February, three months into the car's launch. The debate about the ELR ad seems to be omitting the most obvious question which is, why is GM wasting shareholder's money advertising a car that has no chance of having widespread market appeal?
Former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Joan Claybrook, has weighed in on the deadly delay by General Motors on a recall for a defect that is alleged to have resulted in 13 deaths and 33 accidents. Ms. Claybrook appeared on the Cavuto Show on Fox Business where she blasted both GM and NHTSA for waiting 10 years to recall the defective models and went as far as saying that there should be criminal charges brought against GM by the Justice Department.
General Motors announced disappointing earnings results today and issued a warning that first quarter results will underwhelm as well. The reasons behind the earnings' miss are surely going to be explained away by pundits and proponents of the company still known as Government Motors to many. Sorting through the smoke and mirrors can lead to some important and simple explanations as to what is going on at GM.
The Obama Administration may have sold the last of the taxpayers' shares in General Motors, but it appears that politics will continue to play a powerful role in the management of the company. New GM CEO Mary Barra did not seem too concerned about appearances when she attended the State of the Union as Obama's guest. Her predecessor Dan Akerson in previous months had gone to great lengths to distance GM from the federal government.
General Motors is now approaching its fifth year of existence since emerging as a new entity as a result of the 2009 auto bailouts which saw taxpayers fund a bankruptcy process to the tune of $50 billion. Much has been debated about the "success" of GM since the controversial government-orchestrated restructuring. While GM management recently announced a dividend in an attempt to ensure investors of financial stability, a more telling indicator of the likelihood of future profitability may be found through an analysis of how competitive the company's vehicles are.
The internet was ablaze Tuesday evening with stories presenting a perceived positive move by General Motors' outgoing government-appointed management. All hail! "General Motors to pay first dividend since 2008," trumpeted the headlines. GM shares immediately spiked up in after-hours trading with shares rising about $1.60 or 4% on the news. Unfortunately for those duped by the proclamation, GM followed the story hours later with a profit warning. For the time being, the bad news outweighed the good with GM shares reversing course and ending the day Wednesday with a loss of over one and a half percent on a day that the market rallied.