Friday, August 22, 2008

The Auto Bail-Outs Are Starting

From CNBC:

Lobbyists for the U.S. automakers—General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler—briefed White House officials, as well as U.S. Rep. John Dingell and other Michigan Democrats, on a possible bailout and plan to unveil the proposal after Labor Day, according to the report.

The plan is for the government to lend some $25 billion to the automakers in the first year at an interest rate of 4.5 percent, or about one-third what the companies are currently paying to borrow, the report said.

First -- I called this a few months ago. So allow me a blatant ego boost.

This shouldn't surprise anybody. Detroit has been losing money in a big way for awhile now. GM's latest earnings report was terrible:

From Bloomberg:

General Motors Corp., the largest U.S. automaker, reported a second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion because of strains from truck leases, costs from labor disputes and plunging U.S. sales.


The mounting losses are siphoning resources Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner, 55, needs to develop fuel-saving cars to replace the pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles being abandoned by U.S. buyers. Wagoner, now in his 9th year as CEO, won't project when GM will restore profit as he cuts costs by an additional $9 billion annually and carries out a plan to boost cash by as much as $17 billion.

``The trends that are out of their control, those are the things that have the potential to overwhelm them,'' Robert Schulz, a debt analyst at Standard & Poor's, said yesterday. He was referring to record gasoline prices that have transformed consumer behavior while a weakened U.S. economy drains auto sales to 15-year lows. ``We don't see the macro environment anywhere near on the mend,'' Schulz said.


S&P yesterday cut GM's credit rating one level to B-, or six steps below investment grade, because falling U.S. sales are causing the automaker to use more cash than anticipated. With the U.S. auto slump expected to carry into next year, GM faces a risk of further cuts, Schulz said. GM had the highest rating, AAA, from 1953 until 1981.

And the latest sales figures were equally bad:

From the AP:

General Motors, Ford, Toyota and other automakers said Friday that their U.S. sales fell by double-digits. Nissan Motor Co. was the only major automaker to report a gain, with truck sales up 18 percent thanks in part to the new Rogue crossover and a boost in incentives. Nissan's overall sales rose 8.5 percent.

Automakers were expecting a slide in July as high gas prices continued to cut into sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles and new troubles in the auto leasing sector further wrecked consumers' confidence. July's seasonally adjusted sales rate -- which shows what sales would be if they continued at the same pace for the full year -- was 12.5 million vehicles, according to Autodata Corp. That's down from 17 million as recently as 2005.

Automakers expect things to get worse before they get better.

Here's the real issue.

About 7 years ago, Toyota unveiled the Prius which has now sold 1 million cars. That's a company that is doing well. Honda, which got into trucks late in the game and still primarily relies on fuel efficient cars is doing well. Here are their charts:



Not great, but certainly not terrible.

Ford and GM -- which make non-fuel efficient cars -- are a different story.



So -- make a terrible product and get a government loan for your mistakes.