The Taxpayers to lose Billions on the GM Bailout and likely will have to bail GM out Again

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 22nd, 2012

Week in Review

GM could have filed bankruptcy.  Like many companies do.  They reorganize.  Fix the problems that caused them to go bankrupt.  Then they emerge leaner and meaner.  And are able to compete in the market that bankrupted them before their reorganization.  That’s the usual path.  GM did not take it.  Why?  Because the thing that bankrupted GM was its high union costs.  Especially their legacy costs.  Paying pension and health care costs for more retirees than they have active workers.

Had they gone through a normal bankruptcy they would have made GM competitive again.  Which meant doing something to those costly union contracts.  But as the UAW is a valuable resource for the Democrat Party President Obama swept in and protected the UAW.  Giving them the money they needed to fund those pension plans.  Without fixing their competiveness problem.  Meaning they will likely need another bailout (see GM to benefit from tax break for years by David Shepardson posted 12/20/2012 on The Detroit News).

The Treasury Department’s decision to begin its exit from General Motors Co., despite low stock prices, means U.S. taxpayers are almost certain to incur large losses on the $49.5 billion bailout of the Detroit automaker.

At current stock prices, the government stands to lose nearly $13 billion.

To break even, it would need to sell its remaining 300 million shares for about $70 each. The Treasury will sell its remaining shares over the next 15 months, likely in a series of small sales, and that could stem some of the losses.

Unlike the 1980 Chrysler bailout, the Obama administration didn’t require GM to repay all of its government funds. Instead, the government swapped about $42 billion for a 61 percent equity stake in the automaker.

Former auto czar Steve Rattner said the government made the decision because it didn’t want the new GM to be carrying crushing debt. Instead, it gave GM billions of dollars after its bankruptcy to operate.

GM also got other financial benefits. For example, it has legally avoided paying federal income taxes since exiting bankruptcy, even though it has earned $16 billion in profits.

And GM likely will pay no income taxes for many years, because Treasury rulings let GM use $18 billion in losses from the “old GM” left behind in bankruptcy to offset profits.

Interesting.  We’re going to raise taxes on small business owners (those S corporations and LLCs who earn more than $250,000 in business profits that pass through to their personal tax returns) because those who can afford to pay a little more should.  But a company earning $16 billion (yes, that’s billion with a ‘B’) in profits doesn’t have to pay any income taxes.  Why?  Small business owners create far more jobs than GM does.  So why does GM get preferential treatment?  Because small businesses aren’t unionized.  And don’t pay union dues that feed back to the Democrat Party.

When the Carter administration bailed out Chrysler they at least got all of our money back.  They made no gifts of taxpayer money.  If that wasn’t bad enough our gift to GM didn’t fix their competitiveness problem.  So that when GM once again pays income taxes they will be right back where they were before.  Starved of cash.  And unable to fund their pension plans.

Had GM gone through a normal bankruptcy they would already be back in business.  Competitive.  And paying income taxes.  Without the taxpayers picking up the tab.  President Obama didn’t save GM.  He saved the UAW.  Who will eventually destroy GM with their legacy costs.

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Michigan Vote to become Right to Work show a Political Realignment in the Rust Belt?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 16th, 2012

Week in Review

First Wisconsin and Indiana and now Michigan.  Something is happening in the Rust Belt states.  These union strongholds appear to be going through a midlife crisis.  The marriage between the unions and the people appears to be not as strong as it once was.  As if the unions can’t satisfy the needs of the people anymore.  Who are looking to get out of a failing marriage (see Snyder Wades Into Angry Debate Over Michigan Union Dues by Chris Christoff & Esme E. Deprez posted 12/12/2012 on Bloomberg).

Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who portrays himself as a pragmatic unifier, plunged Michigan into conflict by signing so-called right-to-work legislation.

Less than a week after Snyder ended his neutrality on the issue, lawmakers yesterday approved two bills that prohibit compulsory union dues for employees in organized workplaces. The governor signed them hours later.

“As a nonpolitician, I don’t respond to political pressure,” Snyder, 54, said at a Lansing news briefing. “I try to do what’s best for the citizens of Michigan.”

His decision to make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state in the U.S. made the self-described nerd and non-ideologue a new nemesis to Democrats and their union allies. Similar fights in Wisconsin and Indiana this year and last brought protesters into the streets, accusing Republicans of trying to gut labor’s power in its Midwestern stronghold…

About 17 percent of Michigan workers belong to unions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. In the early 1960s, about 40 percent did…

Snyder said unions started the battle when they led an unsuccessful campaign to enshrine collective-bargaining rights in the Michigan constitution. The ballot proposal was defeated Nov. 6, despite a $23 million drive funded mostly by labor…

Supporters said the laws, which affect all government and private employees in organized workplaces except for police and firefighters, let workers withdraw support from unions they view as ineffective or politically unpalatable.

Then again, with only some 17% of the Michigan workforce unionized and an unemployment rate that was north of 10% for almost 3 of the past 4 years one can see why the people would want a divorce.

The interesting thing is that Michigan has a Republican legislature and a Republican governor yet this state voted for President Obama in 2012.  How is that possible?  How do you reject liberal policies at the state level and yet vote for them at the federal level?  Rust Belt states Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all have Republican legislatures AND Republican governors.  And yet all but Indiana voted for President Obama, perhaps the most liberal president in U.S. history.  How does the national election NOT reflect the state elections?

Union supporters in Michigan are saying Governor Snyder ran as a moderate and then bowed to big money on the Right.  Of course that doesn’t explain the Republican legislature.  It would appear there is a political realignment in the Rust Belt.  Perhaps there will be a recall drive in Michigan.  Like there was in Wisconsin.  Of course, before the union spends another $20 million in a recall attempt they should note that Governor Walker won that recall election with a slightly larger margin than the election that brought him to office in the first place.

It could be that the people want jobs.  And to get jobs they need businesses to come to Michigan.  The Big Three (Ford, Chrysler and General Motors) have been in Michigan forever.  They’ve been bastions of union power.  But every new manufacturer since the Big Three chose to build in some state other than Michigan.  Most of them locating in the Right to Work South.  Something no doubt the people in the Rust Belt are tired of seeing.  Especially when your state has an unemployment rate higher than the national average.

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U.S. Tax Dollars being Invested to Create Jobs in China

Posted by PITHOCRATES - December 1st, 2012

Week in Review

The U.S. government bailed out GM.  Instead of letting them go through a normal bankruptcy proceeding that would make GM competitive again so they could sell cars in the U.S. again.  Instead, the government gave GM taxpayer money to fund their pension and retiree health care costs.  Which will do nothing to improve their competitiveness.  Or create new jobs in the U.S.  So what will that massive government investment do for GM?  Allow them to expand and create jobs…in China (see GM Chinese venture to build $1 billion plant in Chongqing by Ben Klayman posted 11/28/2012 on Reuters).

General Motors Co (GM.N) and its Chinese joint-venture partners said on Wednesday they plan to build a $1 billion auto assembly plant in the city of Chongqing as the GM group bids to remain the leader in the world’s largest auto market…

Earlier this month, GM and its Chinese partners opened a plant in the southern city of Liuzhou for its low-cost Baojun brand. That plant will also eventually have an annual production capacity of 400,000 vehicles…

In September, GM opened a large vehicle test track west of Shanghai. GM and its partners invested $252 million to build what officials called the country’s largest proving ground.

In addition to Liuzhou, the joint venture currently operates a plant in Qingdao. GM and SAIC, through a different joint venture, also have a plant in Shanghai, and several more in northeast China.

This is not helping the U.S. economy.  Building plants and creating jobs in China.  All this is doing is allowing GM to make money like Wall Street makes money.  By investing money.  And getting a return on their Chinese investments.  Government Motors, I mean, General Motors is doing the very thing the Democrats hammered Mitt Romney for doing during the 2012 election.  Creating jobs in China.  The only difference, of course, is that Romney didn’t use U.S. tax money to create any of his jobs.

So the government bailout of General Motors didn’t help anyone but the UAW whose high costs were making them uncompetitive (the source of all of GM’s problems).  And the Chinese.  It didn’t create any new jobs in America.  And it didn’t help GM become more competitive.  Forcing them to rely on their Chinese job growth because their cost structure just won’t let them sell more cars or add more jobs in the United States.

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Global Warming Fears wane as People buy Cars with Powerful Internal Combustion Engines

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 25th, 2012

Week in Review

After the devastation of Hurricane/Super Storm Sandy those on the Left are asking with smug arrogance if we’re ready to address the issue of global warming seriously now.  Just as they did after Hurricane Katrina.  About 7 years earlier.  With relatively calm hurricane seasons between Katrina and Sandy.  Which wasn’t supposed to happen according to those on the left.  For they said there would be an increase in the number of Katrina-like events happening each hurricane season following the year of Hurricane Katrina.  Because of man-made global warming.  What they call a scientific fact.  Even though the facts appear to say otherwise.

So the majority of people ignore their warnings.  As they tired of these people crying wolf.  Proven by the type of cars we’re buying.  And the type of cars we want to buy (see 12 More New Cars Worth Waiting For by Michael Frank posted 11/25/2012 on Popular Mechanics).

Go back a few years and every new car shouted about mpg and economizing. This year, fuel efficiency is still important, but style is back for the new cars sporting 2013 and 2014 model years.

What do these new cars have in common?  An internal combustion engine.  That’s right, not a one of them is a hybrid or an electric car.

When the government bailed out General Motors and took an ownership position they pushed the Chevy Volt.  A hybrid that was going to help save the world from global warming.  There was only one problem.  Few people wanted to buy a Chevy Volt.  As people don’t want to pay more and get less in a car.

Based on the type of cars we’re buying it’s fair to say the masses aren’t wringing their hands over the warming they’re causing.  Because they don’t believe they are causing it.  For after being told that if we don’t do something right now it will be too late prevent the destructive damage of global warming for the last 20 years people start doubting them.  Besides, glaciers once covered the world.  They don’t now.  And it sure wasn’t man-made global warming that melted them away.

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GM doing well in China after the Taxpayer-Funded Obama Administration Bailout

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 23rd, 2012

Week in Review

President Obama saved General Motors (GM).  He bailed them out.  Instead of letting them go through normal bankruptcy proceedings where the creditors are protected and contracts are rewritten so the company can become competitive again.  The Obama bailout didn’t follow normal bankruptcy proceedings.  Nor contract law.  Secured creditors became unsecured by presidential decree.  They transferred ownership to the UAW.  And billions of taxpayers’ money propped up the UAW pension fund.  None of which improved GM’s competitiveness.  And the Obama administration poured more money into the Chevy Volt that no one wanted and few are buying.

But the president did all of these things to save US jobs.  Even though normal bankruptcy proceedings would have made GM more competitive and actually created more jobs.  In fact, under normal bankruptcy proceedings those new jobs would probably have been in the US (see GM opens China test track in effort to remain market leader by Ben Klayman posted 9/21/2012 on Reuters).

General Motors Co(GM.N) opened a new, large vehicle test track west of Shanghai on Saturday as part of its push to retain its leading market share in the world’s largest auto market.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker and its joint venture partners, including SAIC Motor (600104.SS), invested about $252.5 million to build what GM China President Kevin Wale called the country’s largest proving ground…

GM invests $1.5 billion annually in China.

The government still owns GM stock.  So that investment in China was technically made by a company the US government partially owns.  And some of those dollars invested in China were US taxpayer dollars.  So the Obama bailout of GM has allowed GM to invest in China.  And to create jobs in China.

GM is making the investment despite a slowing in the Chinese auto market because it is focused on the long-term growth prospects, Wale said…

GM, whose joint venture in China began building vehicles in 1999, sells under the Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel, Wuling, Baojun and Jiefing brands. Wale said GM had to continue to roll out new products as the market grows, including adding products in the SUV and luxury car segments.

The government has raised fuel economy standards and pushed the Chevy Volt.  So we would stop buying the cars we want to buy.  And start buying the cars they want us to buy.  Like the Chevy Volt.  While the Chinese are expanding the SUV and luxury car segments.  Making it easy for the Chinese to buy the cars they want to buy.  Thanks to that taxpayer-financed government bailout.

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The Amount of Loss per Chevy Volt Sold is in Dispute but what is Not Disputed is that Each Volt Sold Loses Money

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 16th, 2012

Week in Review

Some number crunching shows the Chevy Volt to be a disaster.  A Reuters’ article (see below) puts the loss per Volt sold as high as $49,000.  Which GM disputes.  Even former GM vice chairman Bob Lutz wrote an article in Forbes disputing this.  Criticizing the authors of the article for dividing the total Chevy Volt investment by the number of Volts sold to date.  And not the projected sales over the 5 year life of the vehicle.  But if you crunch the numbers over this 5 year period they still aren’t good.  And show a loss that may never be recovered (see Insight: GM’s Volt: The ugly math of low sales, high costs by Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman posted 9/10/2012 on Reuters).

Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts. GM on Monday issued a statement disputing the estimates…

GM’s basic problem is that “the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced,” said Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group…

GM’s quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs – which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase…

The lack of interest in the car has prevented GM from coming close to its early, optimistic sales projections. Discounted leases as low as $199 a month helped propel Volt sales in August to 2,831, pushing year-to-date sales to 13,500, well below the 40,000 cars that GM originally had hoped to sell in 2012.

Out in the trenches, even the cheap leases haven’t always been effective…

It currently costs GM “at least” $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That’s nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part of President Barack Obama’s green energy policy…

The car entered production in the fall of 2010 as the first U.S. gasoline-electric hybrid that could be recharged by plugging the car into any electrical outlet. The Obama administration, which engineered a $50-billion taxpayer rescue of GM from bankruptcy in 2009 and has provided more than $5 billion in subsidies for green-car development, praised the Volt as an example of the country’s commitment to building more fuel-efficient cars…

Before GM resorted to discounting Volt leases, sales were averaging just over 1,500 cars a month. A huge part of that reason was consumer push back over the price, according to Virag of Automotive Consulting.

GM forecasted selling 40,000 cars per year over 5 years.  Before the discounting leases they were selling only 1,500 per month.  At that pace that comes to 18,000 cars per year over 5 years.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 200,000 (40,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $6,000 per car sold.  If you divide the $1.2 billion by 90,000 (18,000 X 5) cars sold that comes to a projected investment recovery of $13,333 per car sold.  So the projected loss on their investment based on the current pace of sales over 5 years is $7,333 per Volt sold.  Or a profit margin of NEGATIVE 18.3%.  And that’s without adding any production losses.  The longer it takes to meet sales projections the greater the losses climb.  And the less likely they will ever make money on the Volt.  Even with all the subsidies and tax credits.

The big question is what do the taxpayers get for this massive investment into a car that can’t sell?  It’ll help GM advance technology for the next generation of hybrid car?  But isn’t that something car companies are supposed to be doing anyway?  And should a company that is coming out of bankruptcy protection be experimenting in exotic new technology instead of focusing on selling what people are buying to return to profitability?  So they can raise their stock price so the government can sell their shares of GM stock without a loss to repay the American taxpayer?  GM, and the American taxpayer, would be better off if GM focused on selling their more profitable trucks and SUVs until they repay their taxpayer debt.  Then once they were on more steady financial ground they could explore the exotic technologies.

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The Chevy Volt is too Expensive unless you want to Drive in the Carpool Lane Alone

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The government rarely runs anything well.  Because few politicians have any business experience.  Which explains why the more they intervene into the private sector economy the more the economy suffers.  Case in point GM.  GM was losing money because they couldn’t sell cars at a high enough price to pay their bills.  Especially their retiree pension and health care costs.  Instead of allowing GM to go through the bankruptcy process to fix their problems so they could sell cars at prices that would pay their bills the government bailed out the UAW.  And did not fix their underlying problem.  What caused all of their problems in the first place.  High labor and retiree costs.  So it’s no surprise that GM did not emerge leaner and meaner from bankruptcy.  Like the airlines typically do.  Instead they left the problems in place.  And told GM to build the Chevy Volt (see The Chevy Volt: Dead or alive? by Brooke Crothers posted 9/3/2012 on CNET News).

Depending on who you believe, the Volt is either alive and kickin’ or in its death throes.

The most recent news about GM’s plug-in hybrid gives fodder to both sides. On the upside, GM said on Wednesday that it already has sold more than 2,500 Volts this month. That would be a monthly record, bringing the global total this year to about 13,000, according to reports.

But critics quickly jumped on another piece of news: GM’s suspension of Volt production for four weeks.

Dying or not this is not good news for the Volt.  Very few are buying these cars.  And those who do are not buying them because they are great cars.  They’re buying them to make a statement.  Or for some other reason.  And that is the problem for the Volt.  When a vehicle is selling well you hear the rank and file complaining about all of the overtime they have to work.  To keep up with demand.  While demanding their factories add another shift.  But when you’re only selling 13,000 a year (just over 1,000 a month) you can shut down for four weeks.  And no one will even notice.

But the completely electric Nissan Leaf has not fared well either. It has a goal of 20,000 units this year, which the Detroit News says is increasingly unlikely.

Another problem GM faces is competition. It’s no longer the only plug-in hybrid on the block. Ford has its C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid ($32,950) and Toyota is now selling a Prius plug-in hybrid ($32,000)…

GM says one in three Volts are now sold in California. And there are reasons for an uptick in Golden State sales. The Volt earlier this year finally qualified for the California provision that allows environmentally friendly cars to use restricted carpool lanes whether they’re carrying passengers or not.

And the Chevy Volt sells for $40,000.  People just aren’t demanding these cars.  Because they’re expensive, small cars.  And the people that are buying the most Volts are in California.  Just so they can drive in the carpool lanes.  Where commuters will pay almost any price to avoid that awful Californian gridlock.  Especially if you don’t have to drag along another body with you.

The federal government poured a lot of money into the Chevy Volt when they bailed out the UAW pension fund (aka the auto bailout).  This was the car of the future.  Because President Obama said so.  And proclaimed the new GM would sell a million Volts a year.  And GM would use the proceeds from these sales to repay the taxpayers.  Not only have they grossly missed the president’s sales target.  The government interference in the company (by making them build a car that no one demanded) has caused the stock price to fall.  While the government still owns a substantial amount of shares.  Pushing any repayment of the taxpayers’ money further out in the future.  If there is any repayment at all.

It just may not be time for the plug-in hybrid.  Based on these sales numbers.  So it probably wasn’t wise to make it such a big part of GM’s turnaround plan.  Or to pour so much taxpayer money into it.  Worse, GM is not positioned any better to compete in the market place.  Which is why their plug-in hybrid is the most costly one in the market place.  And will be for the foreseeable future.  Until they have a true bankruptcy reorganization.

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President Obama’s GM Bailout Bailed Out the UAW not GM

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 19th, 2012

Week in Review

GM got into trouble because they couldn’t sell cars competitively.  Because they had higher labor costs than the foreign competitors taking their market share.  And they simply couldn’t sell enough cars at their high prices to pay their labor costs.  Which led them to bankruptcy.  But President Obama saved GM.  By bailing them out.  And putting them on the road to prosperity.  Or did he (see Morning Bell: Taxpayers’ Auto Bailout Losses Mounting by Amy Payne posted 8/14/2012 on The Foundry)?

Taxpayers will lose even more on the auto bailout than previously thought, as the Treasury has just revised its estimate upward to $25 billion. This may still underestimate the losses to come—yet President Obama plans to tout the auto bailout as a key accomplishment of his Administration…

Heritage labor expert James Sherk and co-author Todd Zywicki found that all of the taxpayer losses occurred because the Administration manipulated bankruptcy law to shelter the United Auto Workers’ (UAW) compensation. None of the losses were necessary to preserve jobs, and taxpayers spent billions to prop up the compensation of some of the most highly paid workers in America. They write:

We estimate that the Administration redistributed $26.5 billion more to the UAW than it would have received had it been treated as it usually would in bankruptcy proceedings.…Thus, the entire loss to the taxpayers from the auto bailout comes from the funds diverted to the UAW.

The union workers, who were making more than $70 an hour in wages and benefits, received preferential treatment when their companies had to restructure. GM and Chrysler owed billions to a trust fund they had created to provide UAW members with gold-plated retiree health benefits—and taxpayers ended up paying right into that fund. That doesn’t happen in a normal bankruptcy.

Even Stephen Rattner, President Obama’s “car czar,” has admitted that “We should have asked the UAW to do a bit more. We did not ask any UAW member to take a cut in their pay.” As a result, even after the reorganization, GM still has higher labor costs ($56 an hour) than any of its foreign-based competitors.

So this wasn’t so much a bailout of GM as it was a bailout for the UAW.  Lovely.  More debt for the rest of us so a privileged few can live better than we can.  And to add insult to injury this didn’t even fix GM’s original problem.  Their high labor costs.  Which prevents them from selling their cars competitively.  So the bailout did nothing to help GM.  Which means they’ll probably need another bailout later.  Or special treatment from the government.  Such as a pass on paying their federal income taxes.  So the American taxpayer is not benefitting at all from the GM bailout.  Unless he or she is a member of the UAW.

So in other words, the GM bailout basically screwed the American taxpayer.  So the president could reward a political ally.  That will repay his kindness in campaign contributions.  And votes.  Which he desperately needs because his stewardship of the economy is worse than Jimmy Carter’s.

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The 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami both Helped GM and Hurt the Economy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2012

Week in Review

Sadly for President Obama and GM the Japanese have recovered from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  And GM has to face some formidable competition once again (see More Bad News for Obama: A Slump at GM by Rick Newman posted 8/2/2012 on U.S News & World Report).

The downshift seems to have scotched any notion of the government selling its stake in the company prior to the November elections, since that would amount to a taxpayer loss of roughly $17 billion, and a major embarrassment for Obama. The government can hold onto its shares as long as it likes, and sell when the price is high enough to get all its money back. But the stock would have to hit about $53 for Uncle Sam to break even—a threshold that seems a long way off…

One reason GM has lost market share this year has been the resurgence of Toyota, Honda and Nissan, after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disrupted production and temporarily boosted the market share of Japan’s competitors…

Funny.  For the 2011 earthquake and tsunami was responsible for America’s lingering recession.  According to President Obama.  And here it was propping up GM and all the economic activity it generated.  Which was why the government bailed out GM.  To save jobs.  And all of that economic activity GM created.  So if the 2011 earthquake and tsunami was responsible for propping up GM why didn’t it prop up the rest of the economy?  Like Japan’s Lost Decade helped Bill Clinton’s economy during the Nineties?  Simple.  Because President Obama’s economic policies are just that bad.

GM will probably regain some momentum in 2013, when it rolls out its next generation of large SUVs, which are usually highly profitable. Meanwhile, Cadillac is on a roll, thanks to the new ATS compact, the XTS large sedan, and improving quality ratings. Chevrolet has three new models out or on the way—the Malibu and Impala sedans and the Spark subcompact—and a refreshed version of the popular Traverse crossover is coming next year as well…

Nobody would like to see the government sell its stake in GM more than GM. CEO Dan Akerson has complained about the company’s unhappy status as a political football, and the toll that takes on sales and morale. But he’s probably going to have to put up with it for a good while longer.

The car President Obama wanted Government Motors, I mean, General Motors to build is not even mentioned in this article.  The Chevy Volt hybrid.  Which is conspicuous by its absence.  Instead they mention the things his administration opposes.  SUVs.  And large sedans.  Vehicles the American people want to buy.  Perhaps encouraging GM to build something the American people didn’t want to buy also had something to do with GM’s falling stock price.

Perhaps it would be best for the government to sell its shares now.  Even at a loss.  So GM can run the car company.  And not politicians who don’t know the first thing about running a car company.  Ending his war on the stuff that makes these cars run, refined petroleum, would help, too.  A lot.  By bringing the cost of gasoline down.  Helping GM to sell more of the vehicles people want to buy.  Doing these things would help the economy more than 2011 earthquake and tsunami helped it.  Now that would be smart government.  Sadly, something we just don’t see much of these days.

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GM and Ford pursuing Carbon Fiber to Improve Fuel Efficiency and Increase Profits

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 15th, 2012

Week in Review

Ford and GM following the lead of Airbus and Boeing.  Using composite materials to make their vehicles lighter.  And more fuel efficient.  For as Airbus and Boeing have proven, improved fuel efficiency during times of high fuel costs leads to more unit sales (see Ford, Dow to explore carbon fiber use in vehicles by Deepa Seetharaman posted 4/12/2012 on Reuters).

Ford Motor Co and Dow Chemical Co will work to develop cost-effective ways of using carbon fiber in high-volume cars and trucks as the No.2 U.S. automaker moves to cut vehicle weight to improve overall fuel economy…

Weight reduction is one way for automakers to boost the efficiency of their fleets in anticipation of rising oil prices and stricter fuel economy standards for upcoming model years…

Using carbon fiber in lieu of conventional steel can lower the weight of a vehicle component by up to 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Cutting a car’s weight by 10 percent can improve fuel economy by as much as 8 percent.

Carbon fiber, already used in racing cars and products like hockey sticks, is not new to the auto industry. BMW (BMWG.DE), for example, uses the material in its M3 coupe.

Yet carbon fiber’s high cost has blocked its wide-scale use. Industry experts say one way to lower the overall cost of carbon fiber is to find cheaper ways of preparing those materials…

Last month, the Obama administration announced it would provide $14.2 million in funding to spur development of stronger and lighter materials.

Really?  The government needs to fund this with subsidies?  You mean there is no incentive for automakers to make their cars lighter?  I think there is.  If they can make a car lighter without shrinking it down to something slightly larger than a shoe box they will improve fuel economy.  And increase sales.  For what family would not want to buy a fuel efficient car that lets them pack the family in it and take it on vacation?  Letting them take longer trips because the cost of gasoline doesn’t eat up the family vacation budget?  Or let families spend more on their grocery bill rather than on gasoline?  To enjoy more cookouts during their summer vacation?  One thing for certain is that if you can produce a more fuel efficient car that doesn’t trade anything else to get that efficiency (size, range, etc.), people will run to buy it.  And that is what we call incentive.

GM revenue in 2011 was $150.3 billion alone.  So Ford and GM are not doing this to get their hands on that piddling $14.2 million in federal money.  Which was about 0.01% of GM’s total revenue in 2011.  Which is little more than a rounding error.  They’re doing this to increase their market share in an increasingly competitive market.  In 2011 GM, Ford and Chrysler had global market shares of 8%, 8% and 3%, respectively.  If you divide GM’s revenue by 8 that comes to about $18.8 billion in revenue per percentage point.  Which is one heck of an incentive to increase unit sales to get just one more percentage point in market share.  And during times of high fuel costs one way to do that is to make a car cheaper to own by making it more fuel efficient.  That’s why they’re pouring money into carbon fiber technology.  Not because the government is offering what amounts to loose change under the sofa cushions as far as GM is concerned.  Because fuel efficiency equals higher market share when gasoline is expensive.  And market share equals higher revenue.  And profits.

Yes, it’s greed that’s making Ford and GM pursue carbon fiber to increase fuel efficiency.  Which is the best reason.  Because greed requires no government subsidies.

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