As this was being started, four hours later than usual, for reasons which will soon be apparent, General Motors was running 35 minutes and counting late on publishing its eagerly anticpated third quarter results due around 15:30GMT or 10:30 eastern in American money. It was not a good sign. Finally, the numbers showed up 70 minutes later than hoped.

Train wreck. Massive loss and a looming liquidity crisis. Just what you need to start your weekend (thoughts of a different type of liquidity come to mind). Oh, and forget any merger with Chrysler. Our own liquidity more important right now.

At least we can draw a little comfort from Ford’s Q3 numbers out (promptly) at noon our time. A net loss of $129m is an improvement on $380m lost a year ago but, of course, the operating loss was a staggering $2.7bn versus a $194m profit in ’07.

But the additional 10% of white collar workers to be axed by end-2009 face a bleak Christmas and 2,600 more factory workers are on the way out, though that programme has already started. And, it is less than the 4,000 Ford had hinted at recently.

Big Three chiefs and the United Auto Workers head were in Washington yesterday to plead their case for some federal money. It’s ominous when you tie reports of GM heads talking about the “next 100 days are critical” and analysts counting down the cash pile…

The chill looked like finally spreading into one of the auto industry’s bright spots – South America – when this report appeared earlier in the week. Our Man in Brazil was at the local trade group’s press conference and confirmed the trend. Slowing sales, tightening credit, government bank help, plants temporarily shutting – sounds sadly familiar, doesn’t it?

Even Mini was not immune – BMW said it was extending the plant’s Christmas break in the week it gave up on ’08 forecasting.

Enjoy your weekend (if possible),

Graeme Roberts
Deputy Editor