Print

Print


On 5/9/05, steve kijak <[log in to unmask]> wrote:> >>From:    "John Crowley, Jr." <[log in to unmask]>> >>Subject: hybrids and more hybrids> >>> >> I'm an optimist.  I believe that solutions will> come into being (if> >> the "incentives" are right, and I'm not necessarily> talking about> >> taxes) that will solve a lot of these things.> >>> But in this case the Government created the "SUV> craze". Instead of simply raising gas taxes to> encourage the purchase of gas sippers the government> "solution" was to set up a bureaucracy to mandate> corporate mpg. Another failed government program.> > >"Just this past week, General Motors Corp. and Ford> Motor Co.> >underwent the humiliation of seeing their credit> ratings reduced by> >Standard & Poor's Ratings Services to the status of> junk. The reasons> >are becoming clear -- the two big companies can't> sell much of what> >they produce.> > The junk rating is not due to sales figures, which are> decent. The junk rating is due to the fact that GM and> Ford management is incompetent and the financials are> nuts. S&P are the ones that should feel humiliated,> the junk rating is long overdue.> > You can trace the worst of their decisions back to> government.
I disagree with you.  The inept leadership at the companies areresponsible for their poor performances - not the government.  Andtaxes are not an answer - in part, because it's a regressive tax thatcan impact most on those with middle and lower incomes.
For a long time, Ford and GM have had trouble figuring out what kindsof vehicles people want to drive (in as large numbers as they usedto), in part because they don't understand what their prospectivecustomers want.  And what some of them want are smaller, cleaner, moreefficient vehicles that don't drive like trucks (unfortunate for theautomakers, because they've traditionally made their best margins onSUV's).
Should demand for oil worldwide keep prices at or within a range oftoday's prices for the next decade, I am optimistic that hybrid orother alternative technologies will continue to improve and they willcome to market as products in greater numbers.
Several co-workers of mine drive biodiesel vehicles that run onvegetable oil and such (stop at a local restaurant on the way home tofill up).  Clean and cheap.
From The Economist May 6th 2005 (full article below):
"Most of the problems faced by GM and Ford stem from an obvious butcrucial weakness: an inability to sell enough cars. In the NorthAmerican market, vital to the health of both firms, overall vehiclesales are growing. But the two Detroit giants have seen both theirsales and their market share contract. In April, Americans bought over1.5m light vehicles, an increase of 1.8% compared with a year earlier;at the same time GM's sales crashed by 7.7%, and Ford's by nearly 5%;and GM's market share fell from 28% to 25.4%, and Ford's from 19.8% to18.4%. Also in April, GM revealed the consequences of its slump: aloss of $1.1 billion for the quarter to the end of March. Ford managedto turn a net profit of $1.2 billion, but that was 38% less than itmade a year ago."
************
"Two piles of junk?
May 6th 2005 From The Economist Global Agenda
A series of bad news for General Motors and Ford was capped this weekwith the downgrading to junk status of their bonds by a leadingcredit-rating agency. With no end in sight to their problems, whatwill become of the two giant Detroit carmakers?
LIKE a car mechanic imparting the bad news with a tut, a shake of thehead and a sharp intake of breath, Standard & Poor's, a credit-ratingagency, this week delivered its verdict on the roadworthiness ofGeneral Motors and Ford, downgrading both carmakers' bonds to junkstatus. The move will compound the problems of the two companies,which were already looking seriously wobbly.
S&P's decision to cut by two notches its rating for GM and its financesubsidiary, and by one notch those of Ford and its finance arm, willaffect a vast pool of outstanding debt worth over $450 billion. Whilemarkets had expected the move, its timing and (in GM's case) severitywere less well anticipated—hence the shivers it sent through thecredit markets. But it comes after a pile of bad news for both carcompanies which could yet see Moody's and Fitch, the other big ratingagencies, take a similar line. At present both rate the firms' debt atjust above junk.
Most of the problems faced by GM and Ford stem from an obvious butcrucial weakness: an inability to sell enough cars. In the NorthAmerican market, vital to the health of both firms, overall vehiclesales are growing. But the two Detroit giants have seen both theirsales and their market share contract. In April, Americans bought over1.5m light vehicles, an increase of 1.8% compared with a year earlier;at the same time GM's sales crashed by 7.7%, and Ford's by nearly 5%;and GM's market share fell from 28% to 25.4%, and Ford's from 19.8% to18.4%. Also in April, GM revealed the consequences of its slump: aloss of $1.1 billion for the quarter to the end of March. Ford managedto turn a net profit of $1.2 billion, but that was 38% less than itmade a year ago.
The competition has come mainly from the Japanese—and to a lesserextent from a resurgent DaimlerChrysler. Honda, Nissan and Toyotabumped up their combined North American market share from 24.8% to29.1% in the year to April, selling some 438,000 light vehicles. Andthey are hitting GM and Ford where it hurts most.
The revival of the Detroit firms after the slump that followed theSeptember 11th 2001 terrorist attacks was led by sales of profitablesport-utility vehicles (SUVs). Now, GM and Ford are finding fewertakers for these petrol-guzzling beasts. This is partly because of thehigh price of oil. But the main reason is that Ford's and GM's tiredproduct lines are being overtaken by more desirable models from Japan.
Worse still, the Japanese are also making inroads into the market forpick-up trucks, a vehicle as ubiquitous in America's heartland as thebuffalo once was. And though Ford and GM have new product lines on theway over the next year or so, their competitors are revving up theirnew offerings now. The Japanese are also gaining in the market forsmall cars, while luxury-car buyers in America now generally choosemodels from Europe and Asia.
Ford and GM have responded to these problems with lay-offs, factoryclosures and the odd rearguard deal. GM has cut its losses in Europeby buying its way out of a "put" option that would have forced it totake on Fiat Auto, an ailing Italian car company; and by cutting backat Opel, its European carmaking arm. Likewise, Ford has closed fiveAmerican factories in the past three years, cut production everyquarter for almost as long, and is trying to reduce its stocks ofunsold cars.
GM also revamped its top management structure recently by appointing asenior executive to tackle two of the worst problems it faces:employment and "legacy" costs. On the first of these, the Japanesecarmakers have a clear advantage over their American counterparts.Even though many of their vehicles are made in America, they do nothave to pay the extras demanded by unionised workforces.
GM and, to a lesser extent, Ford must also fund a vast andever-growing pool of pensions for former employees and health-carebills for current ones. Ford's unfunded pension liability stood at$12.3 billion at the end of 2004. In GM's case, legacy costs accountedfor 2.3% of revenues in 1999. This will grow to 5% this year,according to CreditSights, a research firm. GM says that it could savebillions if only its blue-collar workers would agree to the reducedhealth-care benefits that the firm's white-collar staff recentlyaccepted.
Perhaps a deal with the unions over these costs is not far away.Indeed, it may have been this prospect that nudged Kirk Kerkorian, awily old American investor, to announce, the day before the downgradefrom S&P, that he intended to more than double his stake in GM to8.8%, at a cost of around $870m. Other shareholders will no doubt behoping that he uses his increased stake to force management intomaking big strategic changes.
But the carmaking operations are not the only worry. GM's finance arm,GMAC, made $2.9 billion of the group's total net profits of $3.6billion in 2004. Ford's profits of $3.5 billion were mainlyattributable to Ford Credit (the carmaking operations made a loss of$155m). But as interest rates go up in America (the Federal Reserveraised rates by another quarter point this week and is set to continuebumping up the cost of borrowing) consumers are becoming wary not onlyof splashing out on new cars but, especially, of doing so on credit.The result is a double whammy: fewer customers for both GMAC and thevehicle salesmen.
Both GM and Ford have sizeable cash piles ($26 billion in GM's case)and credit lines available, so the extra cost of financing resultingfrom the credit downgrades should not hurt too much in the immediatefuture. But it remains to be seen how long both firms can remainsolvent if their core operations continue to bleed money and theirlegacy costs continue to grow. Bankruptcy no longer seems far-fetched.Indeed, the opportunity to emerge from Chapter 11 as smaller, leaneroperations, stripped of some burdensome liabilities and betterequipped to move back into the fast lane of carmaking, may be startingto look like an appealing option."



> Steve> > Yahoo! Mail> Stay connected, organized, and protected. Take the tour:> http://tour.mail.yahoo.com/mailtour.html> > - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -> SkiVt-L is brought to you by the University of Vermont.> > To unsubscribe, visit http://list.uvm.edu/archives/skivt-l.html>

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
SkiVt-L is brought to you by the University of Vermont.

To unsubscribe, visit http://list.uvm.edu/archives/skivt-l.html