General Motors Company, one of the largest names in the automotive industry, ranks #10 on Fortune 500 of the largest US corporations by revenue. GM is big enough to have it’s business hands extended in 157 countries with automotive manufacturing units in 57 countries. Annual sales made from all these countries and great automobile products were around $10 million in 2016. GM being the old player in the industry has had interesting ups and downs.
GM was founded by William C. Durant on September 16, 1908, as a holding company and currently have hold of brands like Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, Cadillac. Electric self-starters used by everybody in their car these days were brought by GM in 1912 in Cadillac. Despite technical innovations, from 1931-2007, GM was on top in vehicle global sales for 77 years. In 2010, GM made an Initial Public Offering which is one of the 5 largest IPOs till now.
Every big player goes through rough times once. GM had its fall also in the year 2008. GM lost around $85 billion during 2003-2010 under the leadership of George Richard Wagoner. This was mainly due to reasons such as:
- Uncompetitive vehicles – There were long lead times in the production and processes of regular vehicles (buyers becoming reluctant).
- Ignoring the competition – Many market analysts spoke on ignorance of competition by GM. GM had a 54% car market share in 1954 whereas, in 2008, 19% market share was owned by GM.
- Too many incentives and rebates provided despite bad financial conditions in the company.
- Scrapping EV-1, one of the electric vehicles project, to please oil companies. This led to filling the electric vehicle void by other companies.
- Mishandling deal with fiat – Dissolving 5-year old partnership with Fiat in 2005.
- GMAC (GM Acceptance Corp), now Ally Financial ended up making more money than the car business.
To save GM, they opted for selling treasury stocks to minimize pressure on stock prices. To save GM from bankruptcy in 2009, a reorganization was done under Chapter-11 of US bankruptcy code where a company, on the verge of bankruptcy, gets intervened by government and sells its assets, restructures debt, cancels contracts and closes operations. The government, under the leadership of Obama, lent GM with $30 billion where $20 billion was already given to GM providing the government with 60.8% in stocks. Despite this much ownership, the government decided to act as reluctant shareholders and not manage the business so as to make it run by private management. Canadian government chose to buy 11.7% of the stake at $9.5 billion. UAW’s (Unites Automobile Workers) trust bought 17.5% and bondholders had 10% of GM stake.
GM was able to come out its bankruptcy with the help of government but it took a toll on the US economy too. Although GM paid back it’s loan earlier than the date it promised for payback, GMs stock price didn’t had very high value to compensate all the $50 billion lent by the government. This whole step stayed quite controversial for a whole lot of time whether the government should’ve taken a step forth to help GM or not. Today, GM has got back into its normal operations and marching forward to electric vehicles segments and great products.