TodayNovember 28, 2021

Is General Motors in denial

Returning GM to prosperity

In a speech given by Jerome B. York, advisor to Kerkorian’s Tracinda Corporation, to the Society of Automotive Analysts on Tuesday, January 10, 2006, York outlined the steps necessary for General Motors to return GM to prosperity. According to PR Newswire, the speech included these comments from York,

“The UAW will be a key partner in much of what GM must do, and we believe equality of sacrifice approach similar to what was done at Chrysler in 1980, and consistent with what Mr. Gettelfinger recently wrote in the Detroit News, will be necessary.”

Components of the plan advocated by York include:

— A 50% cut to the current $2.00 annual dividend to shareholders, which will save GM some $566 million a year.

— A substantial reduction in payments to GM directors who now get paid $200,000 a year.

— A substantial salary reduction for GMs most senior management, including the top five officers of the corporation, who now collectively earn about $7 million a year.

— A salary or wage reduction proportionally decreasing down through all tiers of the company, with hopefully only a single-digit reduction necessary among the rank and file in plants and offices. York noted, “GM has a mountain of liquidity on hand — both cash and non-core assets — that can be sold.

So it has the wherewithal to fix itself.” He cited his experience in previous turnarounds at Chrysler and IBM in identifying five principles he believes

GM’s board of directors and management must pursue to succeed:

— Be realistic about market share and revenue expectations, and gear the cost and expense structure accordingly. York indicated he believed GMs recently announced North American capacity reduction action is at least a very good first step toward what needs to be done.

— Cull out the product offerings. Offer fewer, better products that will sell at higher net wholesale prices. Each car and truck division should have a more focused image. York stated that all evidence suggests GM is making substantial progress regarding the market attractiveness of its new products, but that it would be a daunting task for GM to effectively manage the number of brands and models it has in North America.

— Take a “clean sheet of paper” approach to the business. No sacred cows should be allowed. York noted that large enterprises have a propensity to perpetuate initiatives that started in the past, even if they no longer make business sense. He noted that Saab appears to be a good example.

– Make the tough decisions. If something isn’t part of the core business or can’t make money, sell or close it. Accordingly, York said the likely best course of action for GM is to simplify it’s North American divisional line-up to focus on Chevrolet, Saturn, Pontiac/Buick/GMC, and Cadillac, and to dispose of Saab, cease selling Isuzu products and probably sell Hummer as well.

— Time is of the essence. A “sense of purpose” needs to galvanize the organization. York said GM needs to articulate some financial goals and milestones for the next three years, similar to what Nissan did in 1999 — and that in his experience, it is essential to motivate an organization around a plan of action.

York also said that Mr. Kerkorian is interested, at the appropriate time, in reacquiring the 12 million GM shares that he sold for tax purposes in December 2005. Mr. Kerkorian is also willing — under the right circumstances — to acquire an additional 12 million shares, which would require certain regulatory approvals.

Lou Ann Hammond

Lou Ann Hammond is the CEO of Carlist and Driving the Nation. She is the co-host of Real Wheels Washington Post carchat every Friday morning and is the Automotive, energy correspondent for The John Batchelor Show and a Contributor to Automotive Electronics magazine headquartered in Korea. Hammond is a founding member of the Women's World Car of the Year #WWCOTY, and board member of the Women in Automotive.

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