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Every Friday, we present a Foolish roundup of auto stories you may have missed -- small stories of interest as well as updates to larger ongoing stories we've been following at the Fool. This week, I check out the latest on General Motors' IPO, look at sales trends in China, and join Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA ) in poking a bit of fun at GM's latest "anxiety."
GM's IPO comes into focus
The details of General Motors' plan for getting back into public hands are starting to emerge. According to a report in Automotive News, the Detroit automaker plans to begin its IPO "road show" -- a series of in-depth presentations to institutional investors -- immediately after the elections on Nov. 2, with an eye toward going public later that month. The timing will allow GM to present its third-quarter results as part of the pitch -- a reasonable move given that its second-quarter profit was the company's largest in more than five years.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the U.S. Treasury is worrying about foreign money -- specifically, how many foreign investors should be allowed to buy big stakes in the General. Apparently, the Feds' worry is that a GM largely owned by investors from, say, Dubai or China might not play well in Peoria.
There is of course a larger tension between GM's management, who would like to be rid of the Feds (and the "Government Motors" moniker) as quickly as possible, and the Treasury, who hope to be able to break even -- or better yet, show a profit -- on their "investment" in the company. Many expect that the two will strike a balance, with the Treasury selling a portion of its stake in November -- enough to relinquish its majority-shareholder status -- and the remainder over time as market conditions warrant. Nonetheless, GM's offering, led by investment banks JPMorgan (NYSE: JPM ) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) , is expected to be the United States' largest since Visa's (NYSE: V ) in 2008 -- and one of the largest ever.
Speaking of GM management: Dan Akerson formally took over as GM's CEO on Wednesday, its fourth chief executive in less than two years. According to The Wall Street Journal, Akerson has promised GM's board that he would hold the job "from two to five years, or possibly longer." Whether that's good news or not, of course, remains to be seen.
Is China slowing down or not?
Why does China cause so many headaches for investors? I don't know, but here's another example: On Wednesday, the China Automotive Technology and Research Center, a government-run research and policy institute, reported that August auto sales rose a whopping 56% over August 2009 -- a month in which sales were up an even-more-whopping 95% over year-prior results.
Quite a few of us raised an eyebrow when that figure was released -- August is just as slow a month in China as it is elsewhere, and there were good reasons to believe that growth was moderating significantly -- and we raised another eyebrow yesterday when major international automakers announced their Chinese-market results. Market-heavyweight General Motors? Up 19% year over year. Toyota (NYSE: TM ) ? Up 16%. And Ford (NYSE: F ) , as I mentioned yesterday, was up 24%.
Those aren't bad results, but they aren't a 56% year-over-year increase, either. So what's the deal? The Wall Street Journal tried to find out, but apparently the officials at CATARC "couldn't be reached for comment." Funny about that.
GM's "anxiety" problem
No, it's not sweaty palms before the road show: As first reported by the Jalopnik blog, GM has filed to register the term "range anxiety" as a trademark. We can assume that this is part of GM's plan for marketing the upcoming Chevy Volt, as the Volt's gasoline-powered "range extender" motor has been touted as an advantage over purely electric cars like Nissan's upcoming Leaf.
Naturally, a Tesla Motors spokesperson found it hard to resist a snarky quip, saying in a statement that to Tesla owners, the "range anxiety" term "is as irrelevant as 'gas stop' or 'smog check.'" Tesla claims a range of 245 miles for the current iteration of its $101,500 Roadster.
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