Stephen Foley: Back in action, but where are GM's cars?

Saturday 11 July 2009 01:47
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US Outlook: There was an omission from the press conference called to announce the birth of "New GM", the restructured General Motors that emerged, blinking from bankruptcy protection, at dawn yesterday. There was no mention of GM's cars.

It was initially quite odd, then frustrating, and finally alarming. The maker of Chevrolets and Cadillacs raced out of bankruptcy protection in record-quick time, unburdening itself of tens of billions of dollars in liabilities, slashing its workforce and its too-big dealer network and leaving behind unwanted factories that will be liquidated by the bankruptcy court.

What it can do now, as chief executive Fritz Henderson pointed out, is concentrate on making "gorgeous, high-quality cars" but he didn't look confident to me. He didn't need to drive on to stage in one of them, but he could at least have namechecked some of the latest models or a forthcoming launch. It was difficult to escape the conclusion that industry analysts have also reached, namely that GM has a very thin pipeline.

Mr Henderson did point to the Chevy Volt, but even the US government thinks that electric car will be too expensive to be a hit. He also professed excitement about the new small family car GM has committed to making, but buying a small car in the US is a bit like unilateral disarmament, putting you at the mercy of SUVs elsewhere on the road that will chew you up in an accident. It is hard to see that being the company's saviour.

The 40-day race through bankruptcy court was a victory for the financial whizzes in the White House. Now they hand the wheel to New GM's management. It is difficult to be optimistic.

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