GM: Still an Utter Disaster

By now, you've seen the headlines about General Motors' (NYSE: GM  ) latest pitiful quarter. Let's cut to the chase on the bad news.

The company lost $15.5 billion, or $27.33 a share, for the quarter. For that, you can thank:

  • The American Axle (NYSE: AXL  ) strike.
  • A 250-basis-point drop in North American market share, to 20.2%.
  • A $1.2 billion loss associated with the company's remaining stake in mortgage-burdened GMAC.
  • Painfully high energy prices, which are hurting GM on the top line, raising its costs, and contributing to a rapid markdown in the value of off-lease vehicles.

But there are always two sides to an investing tale. Here's the good news:

  • If you back out what GM considers special items (and boy, were they special!), the quarterly loss was only $11.21 a share.
  • The company is in such financial distress that nearly any sign of the company or economy shifting gears could hit the gas on its share price.
  • ... Yeah, that about covers the good news.

Part of me thinks that the current struggles at GM and Ford (NYSE: F  ) are McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) - like situations: A once-proud brand goes tired, loses ground on the competition, and is left for dead by the market, only to bounce back and regain its lost glory.

Then again, McDonald's was still plenty profitable, even at its lowest point. GM just turned in an 'adjusted' quarterly loss close to twice the size of its market cap. Sure, rivals Toyota (NYSE: TM  ) and Honda (NYSE: HMC  ) haven't exactly been firing on all cylinders themselves lately, but they've still been eating GM's lunch. GM is taking bold steps to get back in the game with significant cost-cutting (employees, capacity, benefits, etc.), but it'll take more than that for this shell of a once-proud company to veer off the highway toward bankruptcy. Let's face it: If your turnaround is contingent on continuously strong-arming your own employees, you're in serious trouble.

At the Fool, we've been pretty hard on GM. In January, I called it the Worst Stock for 2008. A few weeks ago, we called it an utter disaster. So far, so right. Caveat emptor, Fools.

GM is one of the lowest-rated stocks in Motley Fool CAPS. Agree? Disagree? Cast your vote today.

Joe Magyer does not have a financial position in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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  • Report this Comment On September 23, 2008, at 4:04 AM, GoNuke wrote:

    I think GM has to go bankrupt. All of its changes have been too little too late for 25 years. My first car was a GM and it was so poorly made that the cost of repairing it nearly forced me into personal bankruptcy. I certainly couldn't sell it. GM was arrogant and felt I owed its employees a living.

    I stopped buying GM products for very good reasons. GM still owes me a reliable car. I paid them for one but they never delivered.

    Bankruptcy would free up some useful assets and inject the talent with some humility. One might be able to create a competitive auto maker from these assets.

    For now I suggest that GM employees get paid solely in share options.

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