Thursday, June 4, 2009

Car giant GM files for bankruptcy protection

Car giant GM files for bankruptcy protection General Motors Corp. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, stating it had $82.29 billion US in assets and $172.81 billion in liabilities.(Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

General Motors Corp. filed for bankruptcy protection in court in New York City on Monday, a move that will clear the way for a sweeping reshaping of the iconic company.

Company chief executive officer Fritz Henderson said a new GM is expected to hit the road in 60 to 90 days, adding that "speed is of the essence."

"We will do it right, and we will do it once," he said as he thanked Canadian and U.S. taxpayers for their support.

"From here on, we move up. This is not the end of General Motors, but the start of a new and better chapter," he said.

In its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York, GM said it had $82.29 billion US in assets and $172.81 billion in liabilities as of the end of March.

GM will follow the template set by the rapid restructuring of Chrysler LLC. On Sunday night, a U.S. judge approved the sale of most of Chrysler's assets to Fiat. Chrysler entered government-sponsored bankruptcy protection in April and could re-emerge this week.

Canadian Auto Workers president Ken Lewenza said he would be "incredibly surprised" if all of GM's Canadian plants stayed open while the U.S. parent firm is in bankruptcy protection. A similar situation happened at Chrysler's Canadian plants in April.

GM plant closings and timingPlantTimingOrion, Mich., assembly plant

Standby capacity - September 2009

Pontiac, Mich., assembly plant

Close - October 2009

Spring Hill, Tenn., assembly plant

Standby capacity - November 2009Wilmington, Del., assembly pantClose - July 2009

Grand Rapids, Mich., stamping plant

Close - June 2009 (previously announced)Indianapolis, Ind., stamping plantClose - December 2011

Mansfield, Ohio, stamping plant

Close - June 2010

Pontiac, Mich., stamping plant

Standby capacity - December 2010Livonia Engine, Mich., powertrain plantClose - June 2010Flint North Components, Mich., powertrain plantClose - December 2010Willow Run Site, Mich., powertrain plantClose - December 2010Parma Components, Ohio, powertrain plantClose - December 2010Fredericksburg Components, Va., powertrain plantClose - December 2010Massena Castings, N.Y., powertrain plantClosed - May 1, 2009 (previously announced)Boston, Mass., service and parts warehousesClose – Dec. 31, 2009Jacksonville, Fla., service and parts warehouses Close – Dec. 31, 2009Columbus, Ohio, service and parts warehousesClose – Dec. 31, 2009

In advance of the formal announcement from GM, a dealership — Chevrolet-Saturn of Harlem Inc. — filed for bankruptcy protection. The dealership's filing also said a new company — dubbed Auto Acquisition Corp. — will be created to form the "new GM." Auto Acquisition will acquire most of GM's assets as part of the revamp under creditor protection.

The filing confirms that Albert Koch will become GM's chief restructuring officer. He aided Kmart Corp. through its own reorganization under creditor protection.

"We are acting as reluctant shareholders, because that is the only way to help GM succeed," U.S. president Barack Obama said during a White House address.

Obama said he was confident that GM could emerge quickly from bankruptcy protection.

Administration officials told The Associated Press on Sunday the U.S. federal government will pump $30 billion US into GM as it makes its way through bankruptcy court. The automaker has already received $20 billion in government aid.

14 plants expected to close

The governments of Canada and Ontario will contribute about $9.5 billion US ($10.33 billion Cdn) in financial aid to the automaker.

The U.S. Treasury will get 60.8 per cent of the common equity of the new, revamped GM, while the Canadian and Ontario governments will take a 11.7 per cent stake in GM, and a United Auto Workers trust for health-care expenses would get 17.5 per cent.

Bondholders would receive a 10 per cent stake with the possibility of increasing their share to 25 per cent. Existing owners of GM's current common shares will likely get little, if anything, for their holdings, as often happens in similar situations.

GM also said it will speed up plans to close nine plants and idle three more facilities — which would reduce its number of assembly, powertrain and stamping plants from 47 in 2008 to 34 by the end of 2010 and 33 by 2012.

While none on the plants named on the list is in Canada, GM Canada has already said its hourly workforce will decline from 10,300 in 2008 to 4,400 in 2014. The GM Canada truck plant in Oshawa, Ont., recently ceased production.

If the restructuring process is successful, GM will emerge as a leaner company with a smaller work force, fewer plants and a trimmed dealership network. The company will move forward with four core brands — Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC. GM is dropping its Pontiac brand, and looking to sell its Saturn, Saab and Hummer brands.

The bankruptcy represents a dramatic downfall for GM, which was founded in 1908 by William C. Durant, who brought several car companies under one roof, and developed a strategy of "a car for every purse and purpose."

As the company launched its bankruptcy protection filing, GM was dropped from the Dow Jones industrial average after 83 years on the Wall Street benchmark index. Dow Jones said GM will be replaced on June 8 by computer networking equipment maker Cisco Systems Inc.

Car giant GM files for bankruptcy protection

Click on the map to see affected plants in the U.S.

With files from The Associated Press, The Canadian Press