Well, with the US treasury holding 60.8%, it is ‘government motors’, despite today’s announcement of a renewed customer-centric focus. With the beady eyes of shareholders on quarterly results replaced by those of the Obama administration, the ‘new GM’ had better perform as there will be no second chance.

Even with Chrysler as the prototype, GM’s rapid exit from the clammy clutch of Chapter 11 was impressively speedy, and it would be churlish not to wish the much scaled-down ship bon voyage, but today’s announcements didn’t signal too much innovation. Every carmaker will tell you they are focused on the customer (who else would they target, pray?) but that can be so easily blown out of the water by a deadwood dealer staffer or a website that doesn’t work when said customer does try to make contact.

The type of eBay auction president and CEO Fritz Henderson outlined today is not uncommon for other new consumer goods and the ‘Tell Fritz’ website idea sounds much like the ‘Dr Zetsche’ trick tried by a certain recently bankrupt rival under previous management. Still, good to see Bob Lutz staying on board to continue the rollout of good products like those unveiled on his earlier watch and maybe bringing some new ideas to ‘customer service’. I reckon Henderson was only half-joking when he said keeping Lutz would prevent “recycling” him to some other OEM.

Good to see western Europe sales inching up a bit in June, cue due credit to the various scrappage schemes now operating across the continent, including here in the UK. It’ll be interesting to see what the ‘cash for clunkers’ scheme does in the US, too; the scheme made Thursday night’s NBC national news broadcast with dealers sounding cautiously optimistic despite the inevitable criticisms levelled at it.

Speaking of the US, Obama’s been getting some stick for not yet pulling off any economic miracles (unemployed 10m and counting) and there’s been some reality checking in the auto biz by those with a global view. Four years to full recovery, Ghosn reckons. There was a similar view at GM Europe which figured bottom might have been reached in some markets but also saw full recovery several years off. Meanwhile, the pundits see another China boom coming, as incomes rise in third tier cities. June sales supported this view.

Now that the parent’s sorted out, the next week or so should bring some much-needed clarity on the future of GM Europe. There’s been a lot of talk about the late Chinese run but the smart money seems to suggest the Canada-Russia consortium still has the edge.

Have a nice weekend.

Graeme Roberts
Deputy/News Editor