Tuesday, March 2, 2010
General Motors signals improving financial situation with bigger investments
Tuesday's announcement by General Motors of more than a billion dollars in increased investment in its European operations could be a signal that the worst is over for U.S. automakers in the global economic slowdown. GM said it would pump the additional money into its ailing Opel operation in Germany and its Vauxhall subsidiary in Great Britain, according to the New York Times. The added investment more than triples the automaker's previously announced investment in the European brands, and appears designed to leverage promised subsidies from European governments. GM has asked for $2 billion in loan guarantees in addition to a $2.7 billion package of subsidies from Britain, France, Spain and other countries with Opel factories, the Times said. Those governments and unions in Europe had demanded that GM pay for 50 percent of the cost of restructuring its operations, the Times said. The United States government has paid billions of dollars to rescue General Motors, once the world's largest automaker and still the largest in the United States, and will own half of the legendary U.S. automaker when it emerges from bankruptcy reorganization. GM released a statement calling the increased investment “a vote of confidence in Opel/Vauxhall’s long-term business strength.” But the head of Opel/Vauxhall's European works council, Klaus Franz, said the new money meets the demands of the countries and unions in Europe. "They saw we were running out of cash and running out of time," Franz said. "I think they saw that there was no alternative if they wanted to get aid from European governments." British business minister Ian Lucas and Kurt Beck, premier of the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, welcomed GM's announcement. "After a long period of uncertainty, it's high time to offer the Opel factories and employees reliable prospects for the future," Lucas and Beck said in a joint statement. GM's increased investment actually was signaled Monday by Nick Reilly, the president of GM Europe, who said in Geneva that GM believed it could not continue to be a global automaker without a major presence in Europe. Reilly said that was the explanation for GM's decision in November to back out of a deal to sell a majority of Opel to Magna International, a Canadian-Austrian auto parts company, and a Russian partner. Opel still plans to close a factory in Belgium and to cut 8,300 jobs in Europe, the Times said.