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2009年6月 2日 (火)

GM破綻 “売れる車”が再建のカギだ

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jun. 2, 2009)
Building new top seller key to GM recovery
GM破綻 “売れる車”が再建のカギだ(6月2日付・読売社説)

General Motors Corp., the giant automaker that has long been a symbol of the United States, finally collapsed. Though it will be effectively nationalized, the biggest of the Big Three auto companies still faces a rocky road ahead toward rehabilitation.

GM filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday. This marks the largest manufacturing corporate failure in history.

GM's bankruptcy filing followed a similar step taken by Chrysler LLC at the end of April. It is a historic situation that two of the Big Three automakers are in bankruptcy.

GM has reigned over the world auto industry for nearly 80 years. However, the Detroit-based company has been in the red for several years since it got a slow start in the race to develop fuel-efficient small cars and lost competitiveness. The financial crisis and the global recession apparently finished off the ailing company.

Although even U.S. President Barack Obama could not rescue GM, he did engineer a softer landing for the company with a set of measures to alleviate the bankruptcy shock as much as possible.

First, the federal government led the drafting of a restructuring plan and helped convince the United Auto Workers union to agree with GM's proposals to reduce labor costs. The government also helped the company obtain agreements from a majority of creditors in negotiations to greatly reduce its debts.


Swift resurrection

Obama is said to have set up a scenario in which GM will go through the court process in 60 to 90 days and be rehabilitated quickly with the help of the arrangement his government has made.

The point of the restructuring plan is the establishment of a new GM that would inherit only the company's prime assets, including profitable brands, and jettison underperforming operations from the bankrupt company. The federal government will temporarily place GM under state ownership by acquiring 60 percent of new stocks in a recapitalized company.

At the same time, the federal government will invest an additional 30 billion dollars (2.8 trillion yen) into GM. The amount of government financial support will reach 5 trillion yen in total. This shows Washington's strong determination to rehabilitate the automaker as quickly as possible.

But, a leaner GM as a result of drastic restructuring warrants no optimism that the company would be quickly rehabilitated. U.S. taxpayers also are wary of injecting a huge amount of public money into the automaker.


Future cloudy

The biggest challenge is whether GM can regain competitiveness by developing popular sellers such as ecologically friendly cars. Automakers around the world are in fierce competition. Sales of automobiles in the United States are declining. The new GM will have to tread a thorny path.

There is concern the GM bankruptcy may cause a chain reaction of collapses among connected companies such as auto parts manufacturers since the auto industry has a wide variety of affiliated industries. Japanese auto parts manufacturers, too, will be unable to avoid adverse impacts.

To avoid economic confusion, the U.S. government needs to strengthen official support for companies connected to GM. The Japanese government could be asked to assist Japanese parts makers.

If corporate failures and joblessness increase in the United States, it will be another blow to the U.S. economy, which is just getting out of the worst period of the economic crisis. It will be an ordeal for the world economy, too.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 2, 2009)
(2009年6月2日01時32分  読売新聞)


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