By Ucilia Wang
A new, trimmer General Motors (GMGMQ.PK) was born Friday, and its chief executive promises to build a nimble competitor. And, it's working with eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) to allow consumers to buy its new cars online.
Here are some of the fighting words from GM's CEO, Fritz Henderson, in a statement:
One thing we have learned from the last 100 days is that GM can move quickly and decisively. ... Business as usual is over at GM. Our goal is to build more of the cars, trucks, and crossovers that customers want, and to get them to market faster than ever before.
The company plans to cut the number of assembly, powertrain and stamping factories to 34 by the end of 2010 from 47 in 2008. Its workforce in the United States will shrink to 64,000 by the end of this year from 91,000 in 2008, the company said.
GM also wants a smaller network of dealers. The goal is to reduce the number to 3,600 by the end of next year from 6,000 this past spring.
Meanwhile, Bob Lutz is coming out of retirement to be in charge of product development.
GM will focus on the Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC brands. The company said its plug-in hybrid-electric car, the Chevy Volt, is undergoing road testing and is set for market launch next year. It also said, briefly, that it would invest in fuel cell cars (see Will GM Abandon Hydrogen Cars?).
GM said it also plans to make battery development a "core competency," and will announce new efforts in this area later this summer.
It's also turning to eBay for a new way to peddle cars. The automaker and its dealers will be testing ways to make bidding for cars online a simpler way to buy vehicles.
By the way, the new GM is now largely owned by the U.S. government (60.8 percent), though a trust fund for United Auto Workers' retirees and the governments of Canada and Ontario also own a piece. GM keeps a 10 percent stake.
China's BYD Wants Green Bus Maker
BYD (OTCPK:BYDDF), the battery and hybrid electric automaker that is partly owned by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A), is using acquisition as a way to boost its lineup of alternative fuel vehicles.
The automaker is working on buying Hunan Sanxiang Bus Group for 2 billion yuan ($293 million), said the Hunan Economic Committee's website (via Reuters).
BYD leaped into spotlight last year when Berkshire Hathaway took a 10 percent stake in it (see Buffett Invests $230M in BYD). BYD is an established maker of lithium-ion batteries for consumer electronics, and entered the car business in 2003 by buying Tsinchuan Automobile Co.
GM beat out other major automakers to launch a plug-in hybrid-electric sedan to much fanfare last December. It is also developing all-electric vehicles.
Two months ago, Volkswagen said it was looking at inking a battery-supply agreement with BYD.
The world's focus on producing fewer fossil fuel cars in the future has created opportunities for new carmakers, such as Tesla Motors in the United States and Electrovaya in Toronto (see Electrovaya Debuts Low-Speed Maya-300 in Baltimore and Daimler Takes 10% Stake in Tesla, Helps With Model S Launch).
As a growing market, China has become a hub of low-emission car development as well. Last November, Shanghai-based SAIC Motor said it would set up a venture to build gas-electric hybrid and all-electric vehicles (see SAIC Accelerates in Chinese Electric-Car Market).
Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Ecotality, a car-charging technology developer, said earlier this week that it had signed a letter of intent to form joint ventures with Shenzhen Goch Investment, which has agreed to invest $2 million in Ecotality. The investment firm also committed to spending $15 million to set up manufacturing and sales/marketing joint ventures.
Spain Offers Electric Car Incentives
The country known for its renewable energy subsidies plans to offer some nice deals to promote electric car driving.
Spain's industry minister, Miguel Sebastian, said the government would subsidize up to 20 percent of the cost of an electric vehicle, according to AutoblogGreen. It's setting aside about €8 million for the new program.
That means consumers can receive as much as €7,000 from the government for buying a passenger car. The incentives will range between €750 and €20,000 for motorcycles, trucks and buses.
The program also includes funding for charging stations for Madrid, Barcelona and Seville.