US: Analysts believe GM will emerge stronger after bankruptcy
General Motors will emerge a stronger, more competitive company after bankruptcy, but it will take time and the supply base will suffer along the way, and many may face bankruptcy themselves, according to the US-based Society of Automotive Analysts (SAA).
"Despite months of media coverage warning us of the increasing likelihood of this event, it is still difficult to grasp," said Tom Libby, SAA president. "GM was not just another auto company. For decades it was THE auto company, and in many ways it was THE industrial company of the world. GM will emerge from bankruptcy a much more competitive company, and, in hindsight, the changes that are being forced upon the company through bankruptcy are ones that should have occurred many years ago."
Through the bankruptcy process GM will shed more than US$79 billion in debt, eliminate half its brands, reduce labor costs substantially, shrink its dealer network by 40% and close several U.S. assembly plants. Libby pointed out that GM's U.S. market share, after selling or discontinuing four brands, may fall below that of its chief U.S. rival Ford, the first time this has occurred since the early 20th century. Given GM's complexity, the company is expected to stay in bankruptcy for much longer than the much smaller Chrysler, which may emerge from bankruptcy as early as this week.
"Through these and other actions, the company will become much more competitive with its Asian competitors, though in the near term it will have limited funds with which to develop new products, and it also will be run at least in part by the U.S. government, which becomes a majority owner," Libby said.
"Through this entire process, a New General Motors needs to continue to be global focused, seeking scale and restructuring the dealer, capacity and back office footprint," said Michael Robinet, SAA board member and vice president, Global Vehicle Forecasts, CSM Worldwide. "These goals have been achieved - combined with a much lighter balance sheet and obligations portfolio. GM can now function on a level playing field with its global competitors. There is still much heavy lifting to come, though the New GM has a structure which can allow for success in the future."
Regardless, the bankruptcy will hit the supply base hard
"Although GM's filing was anticipated, today is a dark day for GM, the workers and the economy," said Laurie Harbour-Felax, SAA vice president and president, Harbour-Felax Group. "But the coming days will be darker for the supply base, which will likely fall even harder. It won't be just the Tier One suppliers, but the very vulnerable Tier Two and Three suppliers."
The Obama Administration is estimating it will take 60-90 days for the New GM to emerge from bankruptcy. However, IHS Global Insight believes there is a high probability that this timing is achievable since a prolonged GM bankruptcy could significantly harm the U.S. economy just as it is starting to show some signs of recovery. Thus, the Administration will likely do everything possible to minimize the time the New GM stays in bankruptcy.
"While we believe that GM will emerge quickly from bankruptcy and that GM has a high probability of eventually becoming a sustainable successful business, we have some concerns with the speed and robustness of GM's forecasted recovery," said Rebecca Lindland, SAA board member and director of automotive research for North and South America, IHS Global Insight.
In particular, GM's forecasts for market volume, GM market share and the resulting GM factory unit sales are somewhat higher than IHS Global Insight's forecasts. GM is estimating an outbound market share of 18.4-18.9% in its documents. IHS GI has a GM market share stabilizing at 17.2-17.4% from 2009-2014.
This share difference coupled with GM's more optimistic forecast for total market volume results in GM's forecast for GM factory unit sales being higher than our FUS forecast by as much as 20% in 2010. The difference in the estimates narrows as time goes on, but even by 2014, GM's estimate for factory sales is 5% higher than IHS Global Insight's estimate, putting in jeopardy the timeline to profitability for GM.
"Like all domestic auto companies, GM faces a perception issue," Lindland said. "Many American consumers are not yet willing to accept that GM, Ford and Chrysler can build vehicles with the same appeal and quality as their Asian counterparts. Taking GM and Chrysler through bankruptcy will only worsen the situation."
She points out that one of the risks to the forecast is that in order for GM to stabilize market share, we have to assume that GM can attract enough younger (Gen Y) buyers to replace the domestic-loyal buyers of older generations (Depression Gen, Quiet Gen) that are aging out of the market.
"GM is banking on exciting upcoming products like the Chevy Volt, Chevy Cruze, and the newly available Chevy Camaro to help with perception issues. This allows GM to halt its market share decline at around 17.2-17.4%. If GM can't accomplish this, their market share will continue to slide, further weakening their recovery plan," she said.