[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/BUSINESS/02/20/saab.reorganization/art.saab.afp.gi.jpg caption="With a deadline to sell Saab by December 31, General Motors ended negotiations with a potential buyer Friday. "]
Special to CNN
My name is Steven Wade and I'm a Saaboholic.
I own three of them, though that's not many by Saab collector standards. I write about Saabs daily on a Web site that I've been running for close to five years now. I've traveled to Sweden twice to look at them, as well as to the Detroit and Frankfurt auto shows. Did I mention that I live in Hobart, Australia, which is almost as far away from Sweden as you can get.
Tens of thousands of people visit my Web site, viewing almost 400,000 pages during November 2009. Many of them contributed articles and news tips. And all of them are in mourning today.
With a deadline to sell Saab by December 31, General Motors ended negotiations with a potential buyer Friday and said it will begin an orderly windup of Saab early in 2010 unless another buyer emerges. (Spyker, a Dutch carmaker, said Sunday that it made a new offer to buy Saab from GM.)
CIT Group Inc., one of the nation's leading funders of small and medium-sized businesses, filed for the fifth largest bankruptcy by assets in U.S. history Sunday as part of a reorganization plan that has the support of an overwhelming majority of debtholders.
In a statement, the company said it is asking the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York for a quick approval of the prepackaged plan. CIT said none of its operating subsidiaries would be affected by the filing, allowing them to continue operations.
"The decision to proceed with our plan of reorganization will allow CIT to continue to provide funding to our small business and middle market customers, two sectors that remain vitally important to the U.S. economy," said CIT (CIT, Fortune 500) chairman Jeffrey M. Peek.
In the bankruptcy filing, CIT said it had $71 billion in assets and $64.9 billion in liabilities. Only Lehman Brothers, Washington Mutual, Worldcom and General Motors had more in assets when they filed for protection.
CNNMoney.com assistant managing editor Mark M. Meinero, reporter David Ellis and Fortune senior writer Colin Barr contributed to this report.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/07/18/consumer.agency.fight/art.creditcard.gi.jpg caption="Congress is considering a new agency designed to give consumers more protection."]
CNN Financial News Producer
Stocks rallied at the end of a strong week, with the Dow and S&P 500 hitting their highest levels in more than a year as investors extended a seven-month rally.
At the close, the Dow added 78 points, the Nasdaq gained 15 points and the S&P 500 tacked on 6 points.
The Dow gained in four of five sessions this week and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained in all five as investors dove back into the market after a two-week selloff.
The week was peppered with upbeat news on both the economic and global fronts, which helped lessen concerns that the stock market has gotten too far ahead of a recovery.
CNN Financial News Producer
Ford Motor says auto sales fell 5.1% in September from the same month last year, breaking a two-month streak of gains and illustrating the hangover many dealers are suffering through in the wake of this summer's popular “Cash for Clunkers” program.
Rival General Motors reported a 45% drop in sales. Chrysler Group, meantime, said September sales fell 42% from a year earlier.
On a month-to-month comparison, sales at both Ford and GM fell 37% from August. Two of Ford's vehicles - the Focus and Escape - were among the top sellers in the “Clunkers” program.
Chrysler’s sales fell 33% from August, but since the company has a heavier reliance on trucks than its rivals, it did not get much of a sales lift from the rebate program.
Ford was the only member of Detroit’s so-called “Big Three” automakers that did not declare bankruptcy this year or receive any government bailout money.
[cnn-photo-caption image="http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/TECH/biztech/10/01/volt.car.nascar/art.volt.cnn.jpg" caption="GM reveals its first electric car, the Chevy Volt."]
CNN Financial News Producer
General Motor' says its Chevrolet Volt, the electric-drive car that's expected to go on sale in late 2010, is projected to get an estimated 230 miles per gallon in city driving.
That exceptionally-high government mileage rating could give the Volt a major boost. For the first time, car buyers will easily be able to compare electric cars with ordinary gas-powered cars.
"Having a car that gets triple-digit fuel economy can and will be a game changer for us," GM CEO Fritz Henderson said this morning at a press conference showing off the ‘Volt.’
Determining fuel economy for what is primarily an electric car is a tricky matter, and General Motors has been working with the Environmental Protection Agency for years on the issue.
Basically, you will be able to drive the Volt for about 40 miles using its lithium-ion batteries. For those driving less than that, gas mileage is essentially unlimited. It is only after 40 miles that the Volt will start using gasoline.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/BUSINESS/07/06/gm/art.gm.afp.jpg caption="A GM dealership in Shanghai, China"]
CNN Financial News Producer
After a six-week trip through bankruptcy, the “new” General Motors came into the world today - owned by the government and free of tens of billions in debt and minus its unaffordable brands, dealerships and plants.
The sale of the valuable assets of the old company to the new GM was completed this morning.
"This is an exciting day for General Motors, one that will allow every employee, including me, to get back to the business of designing, building and selling great cars and trucks and serving the needs of our customers," GM CEO Fritz Henderson said.
"We deeply appreciate the support we've received. We'll work hard to repay the trust, and the money, that so many have invested in GM," Henderson added.
But he said he couldn't promise that GM would repay the $50 billion the government has already given or promised to GM.
Of President Obama’s stated goals for the taxpayers’ investment in General Motors—“To get G.M. back on its feet, take a hands-off approach and get out quickly”—the middle one is likely to work against those at either end. The government can’t hope to fix G.M. and sell it off without getting under the hood. Over decades now of restructuring plans at the company, two things have demonstrably not helped get much done: Money and time. The government can’t simply give more of each to the automaker. What’s needed is forceful, even ruthless, leadership to insist on the changes that everyone—the managers, the union leadership, the dealers, everyone—has known were necessary for about 20 years now.
Fritz Henderson, GM’s CEO, has earned a reputation as an able guy who understands the business and the company he grew up in. But without someone above him bringing the hammer down—repeatedly—he’s going to have the same problem busting through the culture that frustrated his worthy predecessors, like Jack Smith. And if the government is really going to attempt to stand back, rather than insist on a particular direction, it’s likely only to complicate Henderson’s job by allowing him to be buffeted by all sorts of political cross-pressures. Already, according to The Washington Post, John Dingell has written Henderson to complain about plans to close the Willow Run Transmission Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where roughly 1200 workers build four- and six-speed transmissions for rear-wheel-drive vehicles (half the workers will be transferred to a similar plant in Toledo).
The Wall Street Journal
Decades of dumb decisions helped send General Motors to a bankruptcy court yesterday, but one stands out.
The year was 1998, and the United Auto Workers was striking at two factories in Flint, Mich., that made components critical to every GM assembly plant in the country. The union was defending production quotas that workers could fill in five or six hours, after which they would get overtime pay or just, you know, go home.
Most strikes are forbidden during the life of a labor contract, so to provide legal cover the union started filing grievances. GM lawyers contended the walkouts violated the contract anyway and drafted a lawsuit - the first by the company against the UAW in more than 60 years. But GM's labor-relations department freaked out because the lawsuit would antagonize the union.
Just think about that. The union had shut down virtually all of GM, costing the company and its shareholders billions of dollars, and yet the company's labor negotiators were afraid of giving offense. After heated internal arguments, the suit was filed and GM seemed on the verge of winning. But the company settled just before the judge ruled.
UAW members marched victoriously through downtown Flint. GM executives who advocated a tougher stand got pushed out of the company.
The picture of a heedless union and a feckless management says a lot about what went wrong at GM. There were many more mistakes, of course - look-alike cars, lapses in quality, misguided acquisitions, and betting on big SUVs just before gas prices soared. They were all born of a uniquely insular corporate culture.