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. …

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 …

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

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

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 …

Tesla Sells More Shares After Latest Production Shortcomings

Tesla logoElon Musk still hasn’t given up his quarterly earnings schtick – in which he glosses over ongoing failures and points to his latest tech idea (which is not really new) – and why should he? No reason to quit until it’s clear Wall Street has stopped worshiping.

Oh, sure, after another dismal performance (operating loss of $47 million) for Tesla Motors during the most recent quarter, its stock price took an immediate dive of 9-10 percent. But while that merely returned the electric automaker back to irrational exuberance territory – as compared to the drunken sailor highs it has enjoyed in recent months – it didn’t take long for some market analyst to restore the inflation.

Regardless, last week cast more doubt on Tesla’s condition. After Reuters reported that the company loses more than $4,000 per Model S it markets and sells, the electric automaker announced it would

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 …

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 …

Corporations Pledge Fealty to Obama Global Warming Agenda

Obama InvescoThe planet is in a nearly two-decade global warming standstill; an Arctic research expedition to study warm was halted due to too much ice; polar bear habitat is healthy; another quiet hurricane season is expected; and a paper on sea level rise by climate alarmism founder Dr. James Hansen has been dismissed by his fear-mongering colleagues as “flimsy.”

Nonetheless the corporate world has loyally marched to the White House doorstep to pledge fealty to President Obama’s carbon dioxide reduction agenda. On Monday 13 large companies announced they would collectively spend $140 billion on various initiatives to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and expand so-called “clean” energy. The collective action has been dubbed the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” by the White House, and is intended to enhance the president’s negotiating position at international climate talks in Paris at the end of the year.

“Rising …

FAA Warning Raises More Questions About Boeing Batteries

Boeing 787 DreamlinerIt appears – two years after Boeing had fire incidents from installed lithium ion batteries that shut down deliveries of its vaunted Dreamliner 787 – that its “solution” to “vent” heat and flames outside the aircrafts has prevented any catastrophes, so far.

But it hasn’t alleviated concerns about the batteries’ physics and makeup. Last week Boeing issued a warning to its airline customers to not carry bulk shipments of lithium-ions because if they catch fire or overheat, they’re unstoppable. A spokesman told the Associated Press that the manufacturer has advised airlines not to transport the batteries “until safer methods of packaging and transport are established and implemented.” Likewise, the FAA simultaneously stated that its research has found that carriage of lithium ion batteries “presents a risk.”

The alert was industry-wide. At a safety forum held last week in Washington by the Air Line Pilots Association, Boeing’s fire protection system specialist …

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