Stock Investing - General Motors, Ford asleep at the SWITCH - Now DaimlerChrysler hits the pillow to

by Richard Stoyeck - Date: 2007-03-06 - Word Count: 1118 Share This!

Stock Investing has told us that it has been more than 25 years since Japan's automotive juggernaut served notice on Detroit that we are going to eat your automotive base for lunch. Each successive year since then, our domestic car manufacturers have given away market share to the Japanese. For General Motors, Ford and then Chrysler before the Daimler merger, the only question was how many car sales are we going to lose this year to the Japanese.

Each of the Big Three must put together 3 to 5 year budgets in order to project their cash flow needs. Ford for the next three years in their budget process is showing continued market share erosion in each of the next three years. It is likely that both General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are acting out the same scenario.

UAW Union Caving to Facts of Life

Jerry Sullivan is the head of the largest UAW car worker's union at Ford. He has 36 years with Ford, and the last 10 years as head of UAW Local 600. Sullivan is urging his fellow workers to accept the present Ford buy-out agreement which is on the table for Ford workers to consider.

Ford lost almost $13 billion in the last 12 months. The union recognizes that Ford's back is up against the wall, and it's time to try to save the company. Ford is reorganizing the way it builds cars, more along the lines of Japanese manufacturing techniques. As an example, many of their employees are now working 4 day shifts of 10 hours. These shifts can include weekends. The workers are agreeing to work at regular wages as opposed to overtime rates.

This summer, the national Union will be negotiating health care benefits among other issues. Right now health care costs are at least 50% higher than overseas employees. It's very tough for Ford, or anyone for that matter to make up the incremental difference in these costs, and still sell cars at a competitive price in view of world markets. The Japanese operating under a different pricing structure are in a position to simply put more goodies into the cars, and still sell them at a cheaper price than our domestic products, and then there's the quality issue.

Let's look at it this way. Our stock research shows that the average car Ford produces compared to Japan has about $2400 of additional profits built into the Japanese car compared to the American produced vehicle. About half of that gap is higher labor costs for the American product, and about half of the labor costs are higher medical care costs for retired automotive workers. The Japanese companies have -0- costs, that's right, zero associated medical care costs for their RETIRED employees. This is because in Japan those medical care costs are picked up at the national level by the government, who picks up medical costs for all retired people.

General Motors Delays Filing

General Motors like all publicly traded companies must file its annual report with the Securities Exchange Commission on a timely basis. Would you believe that GM has asked the SEC for an extension for its filing to March 16th of this year? GM continues to be unable to act its financial act together. This coupled with an inability to manufacture cars that people want to buy makes the future not altogether too bright for America's largest car producer.

GM has also expressed an interest in acquiring the Chrysler unit of DaimlerChrysler which is up for sale. This assumes there will be bids for the Chrysler unit. DaimlerChrysler in German has announced that if there are no bids, they will keep the unit, and continue to attempt to turn it around.

It's seems that GM's latest problem is their General Motor Acceptance Corporation (GMAC) subsidiary. The financing subsidiary was partially sold to a group of private equity players last April. The problem is when you do such a deal; you have to put in stipulations that everything is beautiful, or just as it should be. Apparently GMAC has quite a few creditors who are what you would call subprime borrowers.

If you have been reading the newspapers lately, subprime is not so prime anymore. With the housing market still on its back, borrowers with less than super credit seem to be in trouble. Translated, that means they are not paying their bills on a timely basis. This entire huge market is called the subprime market. When the economy has something of a downturn historically, these borrowers surface as individuals who just can't keep up with their debt payments.

A number of companies who have been catering to them, all of a sudden start to take hits. If you are a company doing business with a subprime borrower, you have a certain reserve or cushion built into your numbers for the statistical number of people that you believe will default. It is becoming increasingly apparent in our stock research as stock investors that the subprime companies involved with such borrowers have FRANKLY lost control of their numbers. These companies simply have no idea where their borrowers stand today in their ability to service their debt.

Witness what is happening with Countrywide Financial Corp. which is the largest U.S. home mortgage lender. At the end of 2006, the number of people at least 30 days late is 2.9% of their prime home-equity loans. The number for 2005 was 1.6% and 0.8% for 2004. It is our opinion based on stock market information that we use, and stock investing that we do that the subprime industry players RIGHT NOW have no idea where they stand in reference to their loans. The industry is hanging on by their thumbnails hoping that it gets better.

GMAC is in the same position as the subprime industry, and that is why in our opinion they have asked the SEC for a delayed filing authorization. They are literally trying to figure out where they stand. Assuming the situation is worse than what they told the private equity players who purchased a majority of GMAC last year, GM will be responsible depending upon the covenants in the agreement to ante up additional cash to the buyers.

This is just one more illustration of inept management at General Motors. They are a management team that lets things happen to them. They are in a reactive mode as opposed to being out in front of the problems trying to anticipate, and fix them before they get blown out of proportion. At our firm we have been observers of the American automotive adventure for several decades. We know there are Lee Iacocca type individuals out there that can turn around GM, Ford, and Chrysler. These guys just aren't in the automobile industry anymore.

Goodbye and Good Luck

Related Tags: ford, general motors, sec, chrysler, daimler chrysler, uaw, subprime, general motors acceptance corp, gmac, countrywide financial corp, lee iacocca

Richard Stoyeck's background includes being a limited partner at Bear Stearns, Senior VP at Lehman Brothers, Kuhn Loeb, Arthur Andersen, and KPMG. Educated at Pace University, NYU, and Harvard University, today he runs Rockefeller Capital Partners and StocksAtBottom.com Your Article Search Directory : Find in Articles

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