Saab files for bankruptcy

February 23rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

General Motors confirmed yesterday that Saab’s days as a part of the Detroit-based company are coming to an end. The Swedish brand has filed paperwork with courts back in its homeland for a reorganisation that would lead to total independence. This self-managed reorganisation is consistent with the U.S. Chapter 11 bankruptcy process, and would lead to the establishment of an independent entity based in Sweden. In order for that to happen, however, GM needs to line up financing for the new company, which may be difficult. Reports state that as much as $1 billion may be needed to make Saab fully self-sustainable.

GM plans to concentrate Saab’s engineering, design and manufacturing operations back in Sweden. Saab is showing no signs of slowing and is launching three new products between now and mid 2010: the new 9-3X, 9-5 and 9-4X. The first two are already set to be produced in Sweden, but the new 9-4X crossover was scheduled to be built in Mexico alongside the Cadillac SRX. The Swedish government has already rejected a GM request for funds, so the money will have to be sourced from somewhere else.

GM discards 10,000 unnecessary employees

February 11th, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

It’s just had its 100th birthday, and now GM is showing signs of old age. It is notifying its employees that it will reduce salaried employment globally from a current level of 73,000 to approximately 63,000. These reductions are expected to take place in 2009.

These difficult actions are necessitated by a severe drop in vehicle sales worldwide and by the need to restructure GM for long-term viability. GM outlined the need for the reductions in its restructuring plan submitted to Congress on December 2, 2008. The announcement this week begins implementation of this aspect of the plan.

Salaried employment reductions will vary by global region, depending on the staffing levels in the region and market conditions. Details of the reductions and separation programs will be shared directly by regional leadership with the affected employees.

In the United States, approximately 3,400 of GM’s 29,500 salaried employees will be impacted. These reductions will be made using GM separation programs and policies, which provide for severance payments, benefit contributions and outplacement assistance. The majority of the reductions are expected to take place by May 1, 2009.

GM also announced a temporary pay reduction for a majority of U.S. salaried employees. This begins May 1, and will be effective through the end of the year, when it will be reviewed. In the U.S., executive employees will have their base pay reduced by 10 percent, and many other salaried employees will see reductions of 3 to 7 percent.

Other countries are currently reviewing compensation and benefits for salaried employees.

Cadillac no longer coming to NZ

January 23rd, 2009 by Darren Cottingham

Cadillac CTS fq

If you thought the global economic slowdown currently affecting the automotive couldn’t reach us down here in NZ, you thought wrong. Luxury American brand Cadillac is no longer coming to New Zealand and Australia as previously planned (click here for news item). GM Holden chairman Mark Reuss made the announcement Thursday, Reuss said it was a “very painful decision” for him to make but he believed it was the right one given the current economic climate.

While not dismissing the proposal completely of the GM Premium Brand coming to NZ and Australia he said it would be indefinitely delayed. Given the current market conditions, he felt the timing was wrong to introduce Caddy, which would be a niche brand here, into our tough market. He said that he had spoken to the three New Zealand dealers who had taken up the Cadillac brand and all had agreed with his decision. That comes as no big surprise, since it’s likely none of them had great interest in seeing shiny, expensive Cadillacs collecting dust on their lots.

General Motors will now turn its attention to strengthening the Holden brand in NZ while it waits and hopes for the market to rebound. As for Cadillac, the door’s been opened now, but clearly only when economic conditions are right.

HUMMER on verge of extinction

October 21st, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Hummer H3 12

General Motors is moving full steam ahead on its hopeful sale of HUMMER, hoping to make a decision on the SUV marque “as quickly as practical.”

Shortly after appointing Jim Taylor to the head of the brand, the automaker has contacted interested parties with a full sales prospectus. Recent sales of the oversize trucks have been very slow, posting massive declines this year in the states. GM has too many other problems so it comes as little surprise that its anxious to get the former military-spec brand off its books.

Though GM claims it is not necessarily committed to selling the marque, they have few other options. An entire revamp of the HUMMER line would use up precious resources that would surely be better spent on more fuel efficient, forward thinking products like the Chevy Volt. In any case, there should be an announcement soon about the future (if any) of the HUMMER brand.

Production Chevy Volt launched

September 18th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Chevy Volt 2011 fq

General Motors launched its next 100 years this week by unveiling the much-anticipated production version of the Chevrolet Volt — a vehicle that delivers up to 65km of emissions-free electric driving, with the extended-range capability of hundreds of additional kilometres using petrol.

“Revealing the production version of the Chevy Volt is a great way to open our second century,” said Rick Wagoner, GM Chairman and CEO. “The Volt is symbolic of GM’s strong commitment to the future … just the kind of technology innovation that our industry needs to respond to today’s and tomorrow’s energy and environmental challenges.”

The design of the Chevrolet Volt production car has evolved from the original concept that was unveiled at the 2007 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Because aerodynamics plays a key role in maximising driving range, GM designers created an aerodynamically efficient design for the production vehicle. Many of the design cues from the concept vehicle endure in the production Volt, including the closed front grille, athletic stance, rear design graphics, outside rearview mirrors and more. The Volt’s rounded and flush front fascia, tapered corners and grille are functional, enabling air to move easily around the car. In the rear, sharp edges and a carefully designed spoiler allow the air to flow off and away quickly. An aggressive rake on the windshield and back glass help reduce turbulence and drag.

Working closely with GM aerodynamicists to shape the Volt, design and engineering teams developed one of the most aerodynamic vehicles in GM’s history. They spent hundreds of hours with the Volt in GM’s wind tunnel, testing and re-testing parts such as the front and rear quarter panels, rear spoiler, rockers and side mirrors. Aerodynamic improvements enabled GM to reach the Volt’s target of driving up to 65km (based on EPA city cycle) without using petrol or producing emissions.

Inside, the Volt offers the space, comfort, convenience and safety features that customers expect in a four-passenger sedan, and it delivers them in a variety of interior color, lighting and trim options unlike any offered before on a Chevrolet sedan. Modern controls and attractive materials, two informational displays, and a touch-sensitive infotainment center with integrated shifter distinguish the Volt’s interior from other vehicles in the market.

Some of Volt’s interior technological features include:

* Driver-configurable, liquid crystal instrument display
* Standard seven-inch touch screen vehicle information display
* Touch screen-style climate and infotainment controls
* Optional navigation system with onboard hard drive for maps and music storage
* Standard Bluetooth for cellular phone and USB/Bluetooth for music streaming

The Chevrolet Volt is leading a new era of electrification of the automobile by creating a new class of vehicle known as the Extended-Range Electric Vehicle, or E-REV.

The Volt uses electricity to move the wheels at all times and speeds. For trips up to 65km, the Volt is powered only by electricity stored in its 16kWh, lithium-ion battery. When the battery’s energy is depleted, a petrol/E85-powered engine generator seamlessly provides electricity to power the Volt’s electric drive unit while simultaneously sustaining the charge of the battery. This mode of operation extends the range of the Volt for several hundred additional kilometres, until the vehicle’s battery can be charged. Unlike a conventional battery-electric vehicle, the Volt eliminates “range anxiety,” giving the confidence and peace of mind that the driver will not be stranded by a depleted battery.

The Chevrolet Volt can be plugged either into a standard household 120v outlet in the USA or use 240v for charging. The vehicle’s intelligent charging technology enables the Volt’s battery to be charged in less than three hours on a 240v outlet or about eight hours on a 120v outlet. Charge times are reduced if the battery has not been fully depleted. At a cost of about US$0.80 per day (10 cents per kWh) for a full charge that will deliver up to 65km of electric driving, GM estimates that the Volt will be less expensive to recharge than purchasing a cup of coffee. Charging the Volt about once daily will consume less electric energy annually than the average home’s refrigerator and freezer units.

More than 220 lithium-ion cells contained within the Volt’s battery pack provide ample power. The Volt’s electric drive unit delivers the equivalent of 150 horsepower (112kW), 273 lb-ft. (370 Nm) of instant torque, and a top speed of 160kph. The lack of engine noise, combined with special sound-deadening materials, make the Chevrolet Volt an extremely quiet vehicle inside.

GM estimates cost savings of US$1,500 on fuel annually for an average driver. Using peak electric rates, GM estimates that an electrically driven mile in a Chevy Volt will be about one-sixth of the cost of a conventional gasoline-powered vehicle. The cost savings are even greater when charging during off-peak hours, when electric rates are cheaper.

The Chevrolet Volt is expected to be built at GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck manufacturing facility, subject to GM successfully negotiating satisfactory government incentives. Production is scheduled to begin late 2010 for models in the United States. Pricing has not been announced. It will undoubtedly be converted for right-hand drive markets such as New Zealand, but we may have to wait until 2012 or later.

GM announces employee pricing to try to off-set financial woes

August 26th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

With GM laying-off many workers in order to try and get the company out of debt, an incentive for GM workers to buy the cars they make is becoming popular.

Employee pricing in the US means that an employee can land a new Corvette for up to U.S$10,000 (NZ$14,000) off the stcker price. Given that the Z06 is the best constructed of the Corvette lineage and pumps out 505bhp, the U.S price of just U.S$72,000 (NZ$101,000) seems like a great deal. Factor in the employee discount and that drops the price to U.S$62,600 (NZ$88,400) which just makes us want to cry.

Ford and GM talk about sharing technologies

August 5th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

Amongst the news that General Motors posted a huge Q2 loss and is cutting a futher 5,000 jobs as well as closing four manufacturing plants by 2010, comes rumours from inside Detroit that the unthinkable could be on the cards.

The Detroit News has reported that GM and Ford could be putting thier heads together on engine and powertrain technologies in the near future.

Such a move could help both companies, as developing a new engine costs as much as US$1Billion (NZ$1.37Billion). This news comes along with the forecast by the Center of Automotive Research (CAR) in the U.S that GM is in serious danger of going under if its fortunes don’t change soon.

GM posts a US$15.5B loss for the second quarter

August 4th, 2008 by Darren Cottingham

With Ford having recently posted its worst Q2 loss ever, it seems that GM is following suit with a $15.5B (NZ$21.3B) loss; nearly double the Ford loss.

Predictably, and as is the case with Ford, the General only has itself to blame for the loss with over production of large SUVs accounting for an overall drop in revenue by 18%. Add to this the cost to GM from striking workers and settlements thereof and the payouts to workers (around 24,000) who have been laid-off.

The future looks grim for GM, especially so since smaller models are still a ways off yet.

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