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The Top Ten Auto Stories of 2009

Bankruptcies, bailouts, recalls, oh what a bad year it was!

by on Dec.30, 2009

Brother, can you spare a dime? The jet-setting Detroit Three at hearings: left, fired GM CEO Rick Wagoner, ex Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli, middle, Ford's surviving CEO Alan Mulally, right.

Every December, a group of auto scribes gathers together to share some good cheer and see how we did at predicting the events of the unfolding year. To be honest, even the best of the group failed to come close to calling the big stories of 2009.

No surprise, really, when you consider the strange twists and turns the auto industry has taken during the last 12 months.  Even the best fiction writers would have had trouble scripting this plot.

Sure, there were signs that the auto industry was slumping, and that the Detroit’s Three were in trouble, but having both General Motors and Chrysler go bankrupt?  And the U.S. government become majority owner of GM, with Italian automaker Fiat controlling Chrysler?  And what about Toyota?  Twelve months ago, most of us were writing about the fact that the giant Japanese automaker seemed certain to become the world’s largest automaker, finally overtaking troubled GM.  So, who could have begun to suspect all the problems that would follow for Toyota in 2009?  And what about the unexpected rise of the Chinese?

Top Ten!

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The fact is, there were so many big stories in 2009 it may be impossible to come up with a fair, accurate and complete list of the 10 Top Auto Stories that everyone will agree on.  But I’ll try.

And TheDetroitBureau.com would like to encourage readers to come up with the stories they would add to the list.  Just go to the Comments section at the end of this story.

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Hummer Sold, Will Saturn Be Next?

GM CFO outlines plans for new company; may initially withhold financial data.

by on Jun.02, 2009

GM CFO Ray Young: 16 bidders for Saturn, 3 for Saab. The post-bankruptcy GM could go public by 2010, but may withhold financial data until then, Young cautioned.

GM CFO Ray Young: 16 bidders for Saturn, 3 for Saab. The post-bankruptcy GM could go public by 2010, but may withhold financial data until then, Young cautioned.

With a buyer apparently chosen for its Hummer division, General Motors is now turning to Saturn, the once-vaunted brand that it also hopes to sell off as part of its effort to slim down through bankruptcy.  According to GM Chief Financial Officer Ray Young, there are now 16 potential buyers interested in Saturn, with another 3 looking at Saab, the Swedish maker GM also hopes to sell.

As part of yesterday’s bankruptcy filing, the ailing U.S. automaker intends to eliminate all but four of its brands, and along with the hoped-for sale of Hummer, Saturn and Saab, GM will also abandon its once-legendary Pontiac brand.  Meanwhile, the automaker will restructure its vast global empire, starting with the planned sale of a controlling interest in its European subsidiary, Opel, to a consortium headed by the Canadian supplier, Magna International.

“We’re still going to be a global company, but how we’re going to operate as a global company will change,” explained Young, during a 90-minute teleconference with automotive analysts and reporters.

Subscribe to TheDetroitBureau.comThe sale of Hummer was announced a few hours before the call, but Young declined to reveal the name of the buyer.  As TheDetroitBureau.com reported, this morning, it appears the new owners will consolidate operations, which would mean some overseas production would be brought back to a Hummer plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, from the current site in South Africa.

How soon an announcement on Saturn and Saab will be made is uncertain.  The decision to sell the latter brand was not unexpected and, in fact, was long called for by industry analysts worried about GM’s deteriorating situation.  But the move to abandon Saturn is another matter entirely. (more…)