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well-spent

General Motors

General Motors Corporation (GM) is a multinational automobile manufacturer founded in 1908 and headquartered in the United States. GM is the world's second largest automaker as measured by global industry sales. As of 2008, General Motors employs about 266,000 people around the world. It manufactures its cars and trucks in 35 different countries and sells them under the brands of Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GM Daewoo, GMC, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Vauxhall, and Wuling. As of 2008, General Motors is the ninth largest publicly traded company in the world (ranked by revenue on the Fortune Global 500 list.) In recent years the company has endured significant financial turmoil, including a 38 billion dollar loss in 2007.

It was revealed on October 10th, 2008 that GM may exchange its remaining 49% stake in GMAC to Cerberus Capital Management for Chrysler LLC, potentially merging two of Detroit's "Big Three" automakers.

Company overview

General Motors was formed 1908, in Flint, Michigan, and currently employs approximately 284,000 people around the world. GM's global headquarters is the Renaissance Center located in Detroit, Michigan, United States, They currently manufacture their cars and trucks in 35 different countries. Its European headquarters are based in Zürich, Switzerland, and its Holden headquarters are located in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. In 2007, 9.37 million GM cars and trucks were produced globally under the following 12 brands: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GM Daewoo, GMC, Holden, Hummer, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn and Vauxhall. GM is also the majority shareholder in GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. of South Korea and has had many collaborations with the world's various automakers. This includes product, powertrain and purchasing collaborations with Suzuki Motor Corp. and Isuzu Motors Ltd. of Japan, advanced technology collaborations with Toyota Corporation and BMW AG of Germany and vehicle manufacturing ventures with several of the world's automakers including Toyota, Suzuki, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. of China, AvtoVAZ of Russia, Renault SA of France, and most recently, UzAvtosanoa of Uzbekistan. GM also had collaborations with Fiat S.p.A (see GM/Fiat Premium platform) and Ford Motor Company. To this day, GM retains various stakes in many different automakers.

GM parts and accessories are sold under GM Performance Parts, GM Goodwrench and ACDelco brands through GM Service and Parts Operations which supplies GM dealerships and distributors worldwide. GM engines and transmissions are marketed through GM Powertrain. GM's largest national market is the United States, followed by China, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Germany. GM owns nearly-half (49%) of the finance company GMAC Financial Services, which offers automotive, residential and commercial financing and insurance. GM's OnStar subsidiary is a vehicle safety, security and information service provider.

There have only been a limited number of models bearing the General Motors brand. The GM EV1 was an electric vehicle introduced in the 1990s but was later discontinued. The GM Sequel was a hydrogen fuel cell concept vehicle introduced in 2005, however the name was later changed to Chevrolet Sequel. Along with various concept vehicles, the Holden Statesman (1971 - 1985) was originally marketed as the General Motors Statesman.

History

General Motors (GM) was founded on September 16, 1908 in Flint, Michigan, as a holding company for Buick, then controlled by William C. Durant, and acquired Oldsmobile later that year. The next year, Durant brought in Cadillac, Elmore, Oakland (later known as Pontiac) and several others. In 1909, General Motors acquired the Reliance Motor Truck Company of Owosso, Michigan, and the Rapid Motor Vehicle Company of Pontiac, Michigan, the predecessors of GMC Truck. Durant lost control of GM in 1910 to a bankers' trust, because of the large amount of debt taken on in its acquisitions coupled with a collapse in new vehicle sales. A few years later, Durant would start the Chevrolet Motor car company and through this he secretly purchased a controlling interest in GM. Durant took back control of the company after one of the most dramatic proxy wars in American business history. Shortly after, he again lost control for good after the new vehicle market collapsed. Alfred Sloan was picked to take charge of the corporation and led it to its post war global dominance. This unprecedented growth of GM would last through the late 70's and into the early 80's.

The General Motors Aftermarket Business in the US manages four brands; Goodwrench, ACDelco, GM Performance Parts and GM Accessories. GM Aftersales operates globally.

Corporate governance

Current members of the board of Directors of General Motors are: Percy Barnevik, Erskine Bowles, John Bryan, Armando Codina, Erroll Davis, George Fisher, Mark Guildenstern, Karen Katen, Kent Kresa, Ellen J. Kullman, Philip Laskawy, Kathryn V. Marinello, Eckhard Pfeiffer, and Rick Wagoner who also serves as chairman of the board.

Corporate structure

General Motors is structured into the following groups:

  • GMAP - Asia-Pacific
  • GME - Europe
  • GM LAAM - Latin America, Africa and the Middle East
  • GMNA - North America
  • GMAC Finance and insurance services
  • SPO Service, Parts and Operations
  • Other Operations

Online

The domain gm.com attracted at least 7 million visitors annually by 2008 according to a Compete.com survey.

Human resources

General Motors was named one of the "100 Best Companies for Working Mothers" in 2004 by Working Mothers magazine. GM has also given millions of dollars in computers to colleges of Engineering through its PACE Awards program. Together with the United Auto Workers, GM created a joint venture dedicated to the quality of life needs of employees in 1985. The UAW-GM Center for human resources in Detroit is dedicated to providing GM salaried employees and GM UAW members programs and services related to medical care, diversity issues, education, training and tuition assistance, as well as programs related to work and family concerns, in addition to the traditional union-employer health and safety partnership.

Marketing in the United States

At one time, each of GM's automotive divisions in the United States were targeted to specific market segments and despite some shared components, each distinguished itself from its stablemates with unique styling and technology. The shared components and common corporate management created substantial economies of scale, while the distinctions between the divisions created an orderly upgrade path, with an entry-level buyer starting out with a practical and economical Chevrolet and moving through offerings of the different divisions until the purchase of a Buick or Cadillac.

The postwar automobile industry became enamoured with the concept of "planned obsolescence", implemented by both technical and styling innovations with a typical 3-year product cycle. In this cycle, a new basic body shell is introduced and then modified for the next two years with minor styling changes. GM, Ford, and Chrysler competed vigorously in this new restyling environment.

Distinguishing the brands

By 1958, the divisional distinctions within GM began to blur with the availability of high-performance engines in Chevrolets and Pontiacs. The introduction of higher trim models such as the Chevrolet Impala and Pontiac Bonneville priced in line with some Oldsmobile and Buick offerings was also confusing to consumers. By the time Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Buick introduced similarly styled and priced compact models in 1961, the old "step-up" structure between the divisions was nearly over.

Compacts arrive

The decade of the 1960s saw the creation of compact and intermediate classes. The Chevrolet Corvair was a 6-cylinder answer to the Volkswagen Beetle, the Chevy II was created to match Ford's conventional Falcon and the Chevrolet Camaro/Pontiac Firebird was GMs counter measure to the Ford Mustang. Among intermediates, the Oldsmobile Cutlass nameplate became so popular during the 1970s that Oldsmobile applied the Cutlass name to most of its products in the 1980s. By the mid 1960s, most of GM's vehicles were built on a few common platforms and in the 1970s GM began to use nearly identical body panel stampings, differing only in internal and external trim items.

The 1971 Chevrolet Vega was GM's launch into the new subcompact class. Problems associated with its innovative aluminum engines would damage GMs reputation more than perhaps any other vehicle in its history. During the late 1970s, GM would initiate a wave of downsizing starting with the Chevrolet Caprice which was reborn into what was the size of the Chevrolet Chevelle, the Malibu would be the size of the Nova, and the Nova was replaced by the troubled front-wheel drive Chevrolet Citation.

Rebadging era

By the 1980s, GM frequently "rebadged" one division's successful vehicle into several models across the divisions, all positioned close to one another in the market place. Thus a new GM model's main competition might be another model spawned off the same platform. This led to market "cannibalization" with the divisions spending time stealing sales from one another. Even today, the company's GMT360 mid-sized light truck platform has spawned the basic Chevrolet TrailBlazer, Oldsmobile Bravada, GMC Envoy, Isuzu Ascender, Buick Rainier, and Saab 9-7X. Though each model had a more or less distinct mission, the trucks can hardly be discerned from one another.

The electric car

In 1990, GM debuted the revolutionary EV1 at the Los Angeles Auto Show. It was the first car with zero-emissions marketed in the US in over three decades. The vehicles were marketed through dealers located in only a few regions (e.g. California, Arizona, Georgia). Vehicles were leased, rather than sold, to individuals. Demand for lease of vehicles was lower than projected and GM decided to cease production of the vehicles. All the EV1's were destroyed or donated to museums or universities.

GM in the new century

In the late 1990s, the U.S. economy was on the rise and GM and Ford gained market share producing enormous profits primarily from the sale of light trucks and sport-utility vehicles. From 2000 to 2001, the Federal Reserve in a move to quell the stock market, made twelve successive interest rate increases. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, a severe stock market decline caused a pension and benefit fund underfunding crisis. GM began its Keep America Rolling campaign, which boosted sales, and other auto makers were forced to follow suit. The U.S. automakers saw sales increase to leverage costs as gross margins deteriorated. Although retiree health care costs remain a significant issue, General Motors' investment strategy has generated a $17.1 billion surplus in 2007 in its $101 billion U.S. pension fund portfolio, a $35 billion reversal from its $17.8 billion of underfunding.

In 2004, GM redirected resources from the development of new sedans to an accelerated refurbishment of their light trucks and SUVs for introduction as 2007 models in early 2006. Shortly after this decision, fuel prices increased by over 50% and this in turn affected both the trade-in value of used vehicles and the perceived desirability of new offerings in these market segments. The current marketing plan is to tout these revised vehicles extensively as offering the best fuel economy in their class (of vehicle). GM claims its hybrid trucks will have gas-mileage improvements of 25%.

In the summer of 2005, GM announced that its corporate chrome emblem "Mark of Excellence" will begin appearing on all recently introduced and all-new 2006 model vehicles produced and sold in North America. The move is seen as an attempt by GM to link its name and vehicle brands more closely.

In 2005, GM promoted sales through an employee discount to all buyers. Marketed as the lowest possible price, GM cleared an inventory buildup of 2005 models to make way for its 2006 lineup. While the promotion was a temporary shot in the arm for sales, it did not help the company's bottom line. GM has since changed its marketing strategy to a no haggle sticker policy in which all vehicle prices are lowered, but incentives are reduced, if not eliminated.

GM in China

General Motors is the best selling foreign auto maker in China. The Buick brand is especially strong, led by the Buick Excelle subcompact. Cadillac initiated sales in China in 2004, starting with imports from the United States. GM pushed the marketing of the Chevrolet brand in China in 2005 as well, moving the former Buick Sail to that marque. The company manufactures most of its China-market vehicles locally, through its Shanghai GM joint venture. Shanghai GM, a joint venture between the Chinese company SAIC and General Motors, was created on March 25, 1997. The Shanghai GM plant was opened December 15, 1998 when the first Chinese-built Buick came off the assembly line. The SAIC-GM-Wuling Automobile joint-venture is also successful selling trucks and vans under the Wuling marque (34% belongs to GM).

GM plans to create a research facility in Shanghai for $250m to develop hybrid cars and alternative energy vehicles. This move has been criticized because it pushes outsourcing to the very limit.

GM pulling advertising 2008 - 2009

On Monday, August 18, 2008, GM announced it has dropped its advertising for the upcoming 2009 Academy Awards and the Emmys in September. GM cited cost cutting and a return to marketing that works best. Media outlets have been struggling in the face of American automakers cutting "billions" in advertisements as the economy slows and American automakers struggle. American automakers have cut 414 million in advertising spending in the first quarter of 2008 alone.

Environmental record

In the summer of 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) removed of contaminated sediments and soil from the General Motors Superfund site in Massena, New York for disposal at a licensed facility in Utah. The amount contained of contaminated sediments dredged from the St.Lawrence River. The sediments had been stored on the site since 1995. There was also of contaminated sludge from the active wastewater treatment plant on the General Motors property. General Motors was ranked 20th in the 2002 toxic 100. The company released 12,771,830 pounds of gases in the year 2002. In September 2006, the state of California filed suit against General Motors, Chrysler, Nissan, Toyota, Honda, and Ford. The companies were accused of producing cars that emitted over 289 million metric tons of carbon per year in the United States, accounting for nearly 20% of carbon emissions in the United States and 30% of carbon emissions in California.

Solar panels

GM has installed solar panels from Clairvoyant Energy in its Zaragoza, Spain, factory .

Subsidies

In March 2005, the Government of Canada provided C$200 million in incentives to General Motors for its Ontario plants to expand production and provide jobs, according to Jim Harris. Similar incentives were promised to non-North American auto companies like Toyota; Premier Dalton McGuinty said the money the province and Ottawa are pledging for the project is well-spent.

Labor relations

2007 United Auto Workers strike

On September 24, 2007 General Motors workers represented by the United Auto Workers union went on the first nationwide strike against GM since 1970. The ripple effect of the strike reached into Canada the following day as two car assembly plants and a transmission facility were forced to close. Overnight a tentative agreement was reached, however, and UAW officials declared the end of the strike in a news conference at 4 a.m. on September 26. By the following day, all GM workers in both countries were back to work.

Outcome of strike

A new labor contract was ratified by UAW members exactly one week after the tentative agreement was reached, passing by a majority 62% vote. In the contract are several product and employment guarantees stretching well into the next decade. One of GM's key future products, the Chevy Volt, was promised to the GM Poletown/Detroit-Hamtramck plant in 2010. Also included is a VEBA (Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association) which will transfer retiree health care obligations to the UAW by 2010. This eliminates more than 50 billion dollars from GM's healthcare tab. It will be funded by 30 billion in cash and 1.4 billion in GM stock paid to the UAW over the next 4 years of the contract. It also eliminates 70% of the labor cost gap with GM's Japanese rivals.

Impact of other strikes

A strike at American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings Inc. will result in lost production of an additional 230,000 vehicles in the second quarter, with an estimated $1.8 billion impact on earnings before tax. With a total strike cost of $2.81 billion.

2008 Canadian Auto Workers bargaining

In an unusual move, General Motors and the Canadian Auto Workers union reached a tentative agreement on a new collective bargaining contract on May 15, 2008, a full four months before the existing contract was due to expire. As part of the agreement, GM pledged to maintain production at the Oshawa, Ontario pickup truck plant and made other production commitments.

On June 3, 2008, less than three weeks after ratification of the new contract, GM announced that, due to soaring gasoline prices and plummeting truck sales, it would close four additional truck and SUV plants, including the Oshawa pickup plant.

In response, the CAW organized a blockade of the GM of Canada headquarters in Oshawa. The blockade was ended by an Ontario Superior Court order, after 13 days. Further discussions between GM and the CAW resulted in an agreement to compensate workers at the truck plant and additional product commitments for the Oshawa car assembly plant.

Auto racing

General Motors has an extensive history in numerous forms of racing. Vehicles of most, if not all, of GM's brands have been represented in competition, with perhaps Chevrolet being the most prominent. In particular, the Chevrolet Corvette has long been popular and successful in international road racing. GM also is a supplier of racing components, such as engines, transmissions, and electronics.

GM's Oldsmobile Aurora engine platform was successful in the Indy Racing League (IRL) throughout the 1990s, winning many races in the small V-8 class. An unmodified Aurora V-8 in the Aerotech, captured 47 world records, including the record for speed endurance in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. Recently, the Cadillac V-Series has entered motorsports racing. GM has also used many cars in the American racing series NASCAR. Currently the Chevrolet Impala is the only entry in the series but in the past the Pontiac Grand Prix, Buick Regal, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Chevrolet Lumina, Chevrolet Malibu, and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo were also used.

In touring cars (mainly in Europe) Vauxhall is a key player and former champion in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) series and competes with a Vauxhall Vectra in Super 2000 spec. Opel used to participate in the DTM series and also in the 1980s in the World Rally Championship and other Rally Series with Group B Spec Opel Manta's before this category of Rallying was banned. Chevrolet competes with a Lacetti in the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC). Robertshaw Racing also complete with a privately run Lacetti in the BTCC.

In Australia, there is the prestigious V8 Supercar Championship which is battled out by the two main rivals of Holden & Ford. The current Holden Racing Team cars are based on the Holden Commodore and run a 6.0-litre V8-cylinder engine producing 650+BHP (approx 480 kW Power) @ 7500 rpm). These cars have a top speed of 300+km/h (185 mph) and run 0-100 km/h in less than 4 seconds. The Holden Racing Team is Australia's most successful team in Australian Touring Car History. In 2007 the Drivers championship was won by the very closely linked HSV Dealer Team.

Development of electronics for GM Auto Racing

In 1986, the GM Motorsports group asked Delco Electronics Corporation (DEC), a subsidiary of GM Hughes Electronics (headquarters - Kokomo, Indiana) if an electronic engine management system could be developed for the Chevy Indy V8 engines used in the CART open-wheel race series. Delco Electronics had been supplying all GM automobiles sold in the USA with Engine Control Modules (ECMs) since 1981 when the USA Clean Air Act required 3-way catalytic converters and controlled air-fuel ratios. The production ECMs were becoming more complex, and were becoming powertrain controllers controlling the transmission, spark timing, Idle speed, as well as air-fuel intake mixtures.

Delco Electronics used a small group of electronic designers and technicians at their facility in Goleta, California (near Santa Barbara, California) to do special assignable projects that were advanced or more state of the art. This facility was called Delco Systems Operations (formerly known as GM Defense Research Labs), a part of Delco Electronics Corporation at the time. Delco Systems Operations is the place where the Apollo Program's Lunar Rover Mobility Sub-system was developed and built, also the Apollo Program's guidance computers (Apollo PGNCS) and the Boeing 747 guidance computers (Delco Carousel IV) were developed and manufactured there. All Delco Electronics Motorsports products developed before 1994 were designed by this group. From 1994 to present, this activity is at Delco Electronics/Delphi in Kokomo, IN.

The first generation of engine management controller for CART racing used a modified production ECM, but performed poorly in the race car due to the harsh EMI (Electromagnetic Interference) environment. This version was never used in racing, but the experience gained enabled the engineers to design a more successful Generation 2 controller for use in the 1988 CART IndyCar World series.

Generation 2 controllers were used experimentally by Newman/Haas Racing in 1988 and the first win was in the Cleveland GP with Mario Andretti driving.

In 1989 Newman/Haas Racing, Team Penske, Galles Racing, and Patrick Racing teams used Delco Electronics Gen-2 controllers with the Ilmor Chevy Indy V8 engine. "By the start of the 1989 season, racing pundits recognized that Chevrolet, with its Ilmor Engineering engines and Delco Electronics equipment, had assembled perhaps the most potent racing power in the history of the sport. As the season got under way in April, the pattern of winning began. Racing's elite drivers -- Al Unser, Jr. and Senior, Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan, and Mario and Michael Andretti -- were driving the best equipment in the world.

The results began to show early on. By October, Chevy engines with DE equipment had won 13 of the 15 IndyCar races.

When Emerson Fittipaldi crossed the finish line to win the 1989 Indianapolis 500, racing fans witnessed history being made. Fans thrilled to the neck-and-neck finish between Fittipaldi and Al Unser, Jr. who went spinning on lap 198 after brushing tires with Emmo, and the 43-year-old Brazilian had his first Indianapolis 500 win. Fittipaldi's victory -- in a Chevrolet Indy V8 engine controlled by a Delco Electronics electronic engine control module (ECM) -- was the first time in the 500's storied history that the engine of the winning vehicle was controlled by an electronic engine management system

For the 1990 season, all teams using the Ilmor Chevy Indy V8 were provided a redesigned Gen-3 system and it won 15 poles, 16 wins including the 1990 Indianapolis 500, with 17 races in the IndyCar World Series. To prove the system, the components were used with GM engines in the Trans-Am Racing series during 1989.

In the 1991 IndyCar World Series, Gen-3 had a perfect score: 17 poles, 17 wins, 17 races including the 1991 Indianapolis 500. At the 1991 Indianapolis 500, Delco Electronics introduced telemetry to the electronic system using the advanced spread spectrum radio technology . It was so popular that all IndyCar teams eventually used it, and many still use it. ABC TV used the data from the systems to display real time data with ABC's in-car video cameras.

In 1990 and 1991, the Chevy engine with the Delco Electronics Gen-3 controller won 33 straight IndyCar races. Chevy's dominance proved electronics had found their place in IndyCar racing.

In the 1992 IndyCar World Series, race cars with Gen-3 captured 7 poles, 11 wins including the 1992 Indianapolis 500, in 16 races.

For the 1993 IndyCar World Series, Delco Electronics had been developing a smaller more powerful controller using 32-bit computers and a high-level software language called Modula-GM. This system was called Gen-4 and won much praise for its improved functions and features. The telemetry system developed for the 1992 season was used, and a new Distributorless Ignition module component was added to the overall engine management system. 10 wins including the 1993 Indianapolis 500 in 16 CART races.

In 1994, a totally new Ilmor engine was introduced to IndyCar teams and the engine controller was Delco Electronics Gen-4: 12 wins including the 1994 Indianapolis 500, 16 races.

In 1995, Gen-4 won 6 races out of 17.

In 1996, the Indy Racing League split from CART and used the naturally aspirated Oldsmobile Aurora engine which used the Delco Electronics Gen-4 system until the engine was retired from the IRL IndyCar Series a few years ago. 1997 was the last year the Gen-4 ran in the CART IndyCar World Series.

Per a February 27, 2003 Delphi Press Release, Delphi's current involvement in open wheel racing is as follows:

"Delphi is the official electronics provider to the IRL and has been involved in open-wheel racing since 1988. Today, a majority of the vehicles in the IRL are equipped with several of Delphi's racing products including:

  • Delphi Earpiece Sensor System - measures dynamic forces to a driver's head during an accident. It uses small sensors integrated into the left and right radio earpieces worn by the driver. The six accelerometers -- one for each of the three axes on each side -- measure acceleration in the X, Y and Z axes during an accident. The combined data from the earpiece sensor system and onboard accident data recorder provide accident researchers valuable data for a clearer picture of what happens during a crash.
  • Accident Data Recorder (ADR2) - senses and records key vehicle parameters at 1,000 samples per second just prior to, during, and after an accident-triggering event.
  • Track Condition Radio - helps alert drivers with critical information by transmitting messages from race control to the racecar. A dash-mounted display communicates messages including safety warnings, track condition and pits opened/closed.
  • Radio Telemetry Module - transmits engine and chassis data from a speeding racecar to race team engineers located in the pits. The telemetry module helps enhance driver safety and race team strategy by making real-time data available.
  • Multec(R) Bottom Feed Methanol Electronic Fuel Injector - provides a high flow rate and a low profile package that are ideal for port fuel racing applications. The injector is able to operate at high temperatures and provide a high level of spray atomization.
  • Connectors, Cables and Terminals - connectors are coupling devices that provide an electrical and mechanical connection/disconnection in a system. Cables are insulated electrical conductors. Terminals are devices attached to the end of a wire to facilitate electrical connections. All of these Delphi components enable a vehicle's electrical/electronic system to function under the tough conditions in racing.

Delphi also has begun offering services to the racing industry, including Hydraulic Sled Testing from its state-of-the-art testing laboratory in Vandalia, Ohio. Delphi provides comprehensive safety testing using a hydraulic test sled to simulate a crash. Services include on-board data acquisition, on- and off-board digital video monitoring and the use of Delphi safety products such as the earpiece sensor system and accident data recorder."

Awards for this program:

Louis Schwitzer Awards for Engineering Excellence (since 1967):

1994: Mario Illien, Mercedes 209 CID Engine with Delco Electronics Gen-4 controller (Also won in 1986 for Ilmor-Chevrolet Engine that used Gen-2, 3, & 4 controllers 1988 to 1996)

1996: Dave Schnelker, Ning wu, I-Fu Shih of Delco Electronics & Ed Rothrock of Bell Sports (Design of Racing EyeCue)

1997: Ed Keating and Roger Allen of GM Motorsports (Oldsmobile Aurora Engine with Delco Electronics Gen-4 controller)

2005: Delphi engineers Erskine Carter, Glen Gray, Andy Inman, Tim Kronenberg and Bruce Natvig (Delphi Earpiece Sensor System)

2007: Delphi engineers Erskine Carter, Glen Gray, Andy Inman, Tim Kronenberg and Bruce Natvig (Delphi Accident Data Recorder 3 - ADR 3))

Alternative fuels and hybrids

General Motors is both active in environmental causes and, as a major industrial force, implicated in ecologically harmful activity. The company has long worked on alternative-technology vehicles, and has recently led the industry with clean burning Flexfuel vehicles that can run on either E85 (ethanol) or gasoline. The company was the first to use turbochargers and was an early proponent of V6 engines in the 1960s, but quickly lost interest as the muscle car race took hold. They demonstrated gas turbine vehicles powered by kerosene, an area of interest throughout the industry, but abandoned the alternative engine configuration in view of the 1973 oil crisis. In the 1970s and 1980s, GM pushed the benefits of diesel engines and cylinder deactivation technologies with disastrous results due to poor durability in the Oldsmobile diesels and drivability issues in the Cadillac V8-6-4 variable cylinder engines. In 1987 GM, in conjunction with Aerovironment built the Sunraycer which won the inaugural World Solar Challenge and was a showcase of advanced technology. Much of the technology from Sunraycer found its way into the Impact prototype electric vehicle (also built by Aerovironment) and was the predecessor to the EV1.

GM supported a compromise version of the CAFE standard increase from 27 mpg to 35 mpg, the first such increase in over 20 years.

Hybrid initiative

Micky Blyis the director of General Motors hybrid vehicle integration .

In May 2004, GM delivered the world's first full sized hybrid pickups, and introduced a hybrid passenger car. In 2005, the Opel Astra diesel Hybrid concept vehicle was introduced. The 2006 Saturn Vue Green Line was the first hybrid passenger vehicle from GM and is also a mild design. GM has hinted at new hybrid technologies to be employed that will be optimized for higher speeds in freeway driving. Future hybrid vehicles should include the 2007 GMC Yukon, the Saturn Aura, and an updated Saturn Vue based an Opel design like the Saturn Aura.

GM has recently introduced the concept cars Chevrolet Volt and Opel Flextreme, which are electric vehicles with back-up generators, powered by gasoline, E85, or fuel cells. According to GM, a production Chevrolet Volt will be available by late 2010 as a 2011 model.

GM currently offers two types of hybrid systems. The first type, used in the Silverado Hybrid, Saturn Vue, Saturn Aura, and Chevrolet Malibu, is what GM calls a "Mild Hybrid" or "BAS" system. The second hybrid drive system,co-developed with DaimlerChrysler and BMW, is called a "Two-Mode Hybrid." The two-mode is used by the Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon and will later be used on the Saturn Vue, and possibly other vehicles.

GM's current hybrid models:

The GM Magic Bus is a hybrid powered bus.

GM sold 843 hybrids of all types during the first quarter of 2008, according to the industry newspaper Automotive News. Compared that with Ford, which sold 5,225 hybrids during that time. The hands-down hybrid leader, Toyota, sold 278,000 in the U.S. alone last year and 430,000 worldwide. CSM Worldwide, expects GM to seriously increase its hybrid output, turning the automaker into a serious contender within the next few years. He expects it to produce 40,000 to 50,000 hybrids this year, more than doubling last year's production.

Hydrogen initiative

GM has prided its research and prototype development of hydrogen powered vehicles, to be produced in early 2010, using a support infrastructure still in a prototype state. The economic feasibility of the technically challenging hydrogen car, and the low-cost production of hydrogen to fuel it, has also been discussed by other automobile manufacturers such as Ford and Chrysler. In June 2007, Larry Burns, vice president of research and development, said he's not yet willing to say exactly when hydrogen vehicles will be mass produced, but he said it should happen before 2020, the year many experts have predicted. He said "I sure would be disappointed if we weren't there" before 2020.

Flexfuel and Biofuels

GM produces many Flexfuel vehicles that can operate on ethanol gasoline, or E85. GM is the leader in E85 FlexFuel vehicles, with over 3 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road in the U.S. E85 is a mostly renewable fuel made from corn and grain products.

By the end of 2008, GM will offer 25 ethanol-enabled FlexFuel cars and trucks around the world, and produce more than one million new FlexFuel vehicles. GM's goal is to have half of their annual vehicle production be E85 or biodiesel capable by 2012.

Electric vehicles

The process of obtaining the EV1, GM's first electric vehicle, was difficult. The vehicle could not be purchased outright. Instead, General Motors offered a closed-end lease for three years, with no renewal or residual purchase options. The EV1 was only available from specialist Saturn dealerships, and only in California and Arizona. Before reviewing leasing options, a potential lessee would be taken through a 'pre-qualification' process in order to learn how the EV1 was different from other vehicles. Next came a waiting list with no scheduled delivery date.

In June 2006 the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? was released, criticizing among others, GM for being responsible for the demise of the EV1.

Several weeks before the debut of the movie, the Smithsonian Institution announced that its EV1 display was being permanently removed and the EV1 car put into storage. GM is a major financial contributor to the museum, but both parties denied that this fact contributed to the removal of the display.

General Motors has responded to complaints about the scrapping of the EV1 program and they dispute the existence of any conspiracy surrounding its demise. An entry was posted on the GM blog FastLane in 2006 in which GM defended its decision by saying that it was unable to guarantee the vehicles could continue to be maintained in a safe operating state.

GM alleges that during the four years available to the public, only 800 EV1's were released. Over $1 billion was spent on the EV1 program, with a great portion used for consumer incentives and marketing. With a waiting list of 5,000 applicants, only 50 individuals actually were willing to accept a lease on the EV1. Suppliers ceased production of replacement parts due to the low demand for the EV1. This made repairs and continued safety of the vehicles difficult. The EV1 was designed as a developmental vehicle and was never intended for serial production.

The limitations of storage technology and the expense of production would have made the cars impractical for the vast majority of consumers; a production EV1 would have met limited demand and would have been priced out of reach of most. Had sufficient demand existed to justify mass production and had costs and technologies been able to support mass production, GM would have been more receptive to the idea.

GM responded to allegations made in the film through a blog post by Dave Barthmuss, who said "Sadly, despite the substantial investment of money and the enthusiastic fervor of a relatively small number of EV1 drivers — including the filmmaker — the EV1 proved far from a viable commercial success. Barthmuss notes investments in electric vehicle technology since the EV1: Two-Mode Hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and fuel cell vehicle programs. The filmmakers suggested that GM did not immediately channel its technological progress with the EV1 into these projects, and instead let the technology languish while focusing on more immediately profitable enterprises such as SUVs. Contrary to this suggestion, as Barthmuss points out, GM is bullish on hydrogen:

According to GM, not all of the EV1's were destroyed. Many were donated to research institutions and facilities, along with museums. Some are still owned by General Motors themselves, and are kept at their technical design center in Warren, Michigan, and can occasionally be seen on the road within a close area of the tech center.

After Toyota ceased production of the RAV-4EV in 2001, no other major automaker on the road offered a fully electric vehicle designed for everyday use on public transportation routes for some time; however Think Nordic, at one time under the ownership of Ford, have produced a range of electric vehicles in limited numbers. In 2007, Tesla Motors began taking orders for the fully electric Tesla Roadster, which was designed for less than 1/10th of the cost of the EV1. Production on the Roadster began in March, 2008, and GM executives have expicitly stated that the emergence of the Tesla Roadster was a primary reason why GM accelerated the Chevy Volt project; the spiritual successor to the EV1.

On September 16, 2008, as part of its 100th anniversary celebration, GM unveiled the "production" version of the Chevrolet Volt at the GM headquarters in Detroit

Political and charitable contributions

In the 2006 election cycle General Motors contributed $788,600, with 34% of that amount going to the Democrats and 66% to the Republicans. Since 1996, General Motors has been the exclusive source of funding for Safe Kids USA's "Safe Kids Buckle Up" program, a national initiative to ensure child automobile safety through education and inspection.

Corporate restructuring

After gaining market share in the late 1990s and making enormous profits General Motors stock soared to over $80 a share. However, in 2000, twelve successive interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve led to a severe stock market decline following the September 11, 2001 attacks, caused a pension and benefit funds crisis at General Motors and many other American companies. General Motors' rising retiree health care costs and Other Post Employment Benefit (OPEB) fund deficit prompted the company to enact a broad restructuring plan. Although GM had already taken action to fully fund its pension plan, its OPEB fund became an issue for its corporate bond ratings. GM had expressed its disagreement with the bond ratings; moreover, GM's benefit funds were performing at higher than expected rates of return. Then, following a $10.6 billion loss in 2005, GM acted quickly to implement its restructuring plan. For the first quarter of 2006 GM earned $400 million, signaling a turnaround had already begun even though many aspects of the restructuring plan had not yet taken effect. Although retiree health care costs remain a significant issue, General Motors' investment strategy has generated a $17.1 billion surplus in 2007 in its $101 billion U.S. pension fund portfolio, a $35 billion reversal from its $17.8 billion of underfunding.

In February 2005, GM successfully bought itself out of a put option with Fiat for $2 billion USD (€1.55 billion). In 2000, GM had sold a 6% stake to Fiat in return for a 20% share in the Italian automaker. As part of the deal, GM granted Fiat a put option which, if exercised between January 2004 and July 2009, could have forced GM to buy Fiat. GM had agreed to the put option at the time, perhaps to keep it from being acquired by another automaker such as Daimler AG competing with GM's Opel and Vauxhall marques. The relationship suffered, and Fiat had failed to improve. In 2003, Fiat recapitalized, reducing GM's stake to 10%.

In February 2006, GM slashed its annual dividend from 2.00 to $1.00 per share. The reduction saved $565 million a year.

In March 2006, GM divested 92.36 million shares (reducing their stake from 20% to 3%) of Japanese manufacturer Suzuki, in order to raise $2.3 billion. GM originally invested in Suzuki in the early 1980s.

On March 23, 2006, a private equity consortium including KKR, Goldman Sachs Capital, and Five Mile Capital purchased $8.8 billion, or 78% of GMAC, GM's commercial mortgage arm. The new entity, in which GMAC will own a 21% stake, will be known as Capmark Financial Group.

On April 3, 2006, GM announced that it would sell 51% of GMAC as a whole to a consortium led by Cerberus Capital Management, raising $14 billion over 3 years. Investors also include Citigroup's private equity arm and Aozora Bank of Japan. The group will pay GM $7.4 billion in cash at closing. GM will retain approximately $20 billion in automobile financing worth an estimated $4 billion over three years.

GM sold its 8% stake in Isuzu on April 11, 2006, to raise an additional $300 million.12,600 workers from Delphi, a key supplier to GM, agreed to buyouts and an early retirement plan offered by GM in order to avoid a strike, after a judge agreed to cancel Delphi's union contracts. 5,000 Delphi workers were allowed to flow to GM.

On June 28, 2007, GM agreed to sell its Allison Transmission division to private-equity firms Carlyle Group and Onex for $5.1 billion. The deal will increase GM's liquidity and echoes previous moves to shift its focus towards its core automotive business. The two firms will control seven factories around Indianapolis but GM will retain management of a factory in Baltimore. Former Allison Transmission president Lawrence E. Dewey will be the new CEO of the standalone company.

On February 12, 2008 GM announced its loss of $39 billion, the biggest loss of any U.S. automaker. GM has offered buyouts to all its UAW members.

In March 24, 2008 GM reported a cash position of $24 billion, or $6 billion less than what was on hand September 31, 2007, which is a loss of $1 billion dollars a month. A further quarterly loss of $15.5 billion, the third-biggest in the company's history, was announced on 1 August 2008.

As GM opens new plants, those scheduled to close under the planned GM restructuring include (source: General Motors Corporation):

Plants Location Closing Role # Employees
Moraine Assembly Ohio Dec 23 2009 Mid-size SUV assembly 4,165
Oklahoma City Assembly Oklahoma Early 2006 Mid-size trucks and SUV assembly 2,734
Lansing Craft Centre Michigan Mid-2006 Chevrolet SSR roadster assembly 398
Spring Hill Manufacturing Line 1 Tennessee March 2007 Saturn Ion sedan and coupe assembly 5,776
Janesville Assembly Wisconsin By 2010 Full Size SUV Assembly 2,800
Lansing Metal Center Michigan 2006 Metal fabricating 1,398
Portland Distribution Center Oregon 2006 Parts distribution 95
Saint Louis Distribution Center Missouri 2006 Parts distribution 182
Pittsburgh Metal Pennsylvania 2007 Metal fabricating 613
Ypsilanti Processing Center Michigan 2007 Parts processing 278
Flint North 3800 Michigan 2008 Engines 2,677
Massena 250 New York 2008 Foam

Disability assistance

The GM Mobility program was launched in 1991 to assist people with disabilities with their transportation needs. The Mobility program provides financial assistance, plus two extra years of the OnStar safety and security service. This applies when one or more of the 35 eligible aftermarket mobility equipment modifications are installed on the vehicle (i.e. hand controls, scooter hoists or wheelchair lifts). All GM brands (Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, HUMMER, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn) are included in the program.

Criticism

In 1980, J. Patrick Wright wrote a book named On a Clear Day You Can See General Motors. This book, which critics acclaimed "blows the lid off the king of carmakers" was about the allegations of corruption, "mismanagement and total irresponsibility" at the top level of the company, as seen by John Z. DeLorean, the Vice-President, who in 1973 resigned from his position in spite of a brilliant and meteoric rise (he was earning $ 650,000 per year and was expected to be the next President of GM).

In 1996 documentary Taken for a Ride, GM is cited as being mastermind of purchase and destruction of private fixed rail transit systems in US cities from 1920s until 1950s. The documentary claims the motivations were to eliminate fixed rail systems and implement the idea of buses and cars as more efficient and better alternatives in order to increase GM sales.

In June 2006 the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? was released, criticizing GM, among others, for the cancellation of its first electric car, the EV1.

See also

People

Books and films

  • Final Offer - A documentary film that shows the 1984 GM contract negotiations, that would result in the union split of the Canadian arm of the UAW.
  • Roger & Me - the first documentary by filmmaker Michael Moore. The film criticizes General Motors for closing down its factories in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan, despite record profits. After Flint residents lose their many jobs at GM, Moore claims the town descends into economic chaos.
  • Who Killed the Electric Car? - A documentary film charting GM's launch, then alleged self-sabotage of the electric car EV1.
  • General Motors is mentioned several times in Wheels a novel by Arthur Hailey

Active brands

The following GM brands were being produced in July 2008:

Defunct brands

Spin-off

Subsidiaries

Industry associations

  • United States Council for Automotive Research
  • Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers

Categories

References

Further reading

  • Barabba, Vincent P. Surviving Transformation: Lessons from GM's Surprising Turnaround (2004)
  • Chandler, Alfred D., Jr., ed. Giant Enterprise: Ford, General Motors, and the Automobile Industry 1964.
  • Cray, Ed. Chrome Colossus: General Motors and Its Times. 1980.
  • Farber, David. Sloan Rules: Alfred P. Sloan and the Triumph of General Motors U of Chicago Press 2002
  • Gustin, Lawrence R. Billy Durant: Creator of General Motors, 1973.
  • Halberstam, David. The Reckoning (1986) detailed reporting on the crises of 1973-mid 1980s
  • Keller, Maryann. Rude Awakening: The Rise, Fall, and Struggle for Recovery of General Motors, 1989.
  • Leslie, Stuart W. Boss Kettering: Wizard of General Motors Columbia University Press, 1983.
  • Maxton, Graeme P. and John Wormald, Time for a Model Change: Re-engineering the Global Automotive Industry (2004)
  • Maynard, Micheline. The End of Detroit: How the Big Three Lost Their Grip on the American Car Market (2003)
  • Rae, John B. The American Automobile: A Brief History. University of Chicago Press, 1965.
  • Sloan, Alfred P., Jr. My Years with General Motors, 1963.
  • Weisberger, Bernard A. The Dream Maker: William C. Durant, Founder of General Motors, 1979

External links

See also

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