Saturn will remain in operation for the next several years, through the end of the planned lifecycle for all Saturn products. In the interim, if Saturn retailers or other investors present a plan that would allow a spin-off or sale of Saturn Distribution Corporation, GM would be open to any such possibility. If a spin-off or sale does not occur, GM plans to phase out the Saturn brand at the end of the current product lifecycle.
GM's dealer count is also projected to be further reduced, from 6,246 in 2008 to 4,700 by 2012, and to 4,100 by 2014. Most of this reduction will take place in metro and suburban markets where dealership overcapacity is most prevalent. The result will be a smaller, but healthier GM dealer network.
As indicated in the Dec. 2, 2008 plan, GM is moving ahead aggressively with plans to improve the fuel efficiency of its vehicles and develop a broad range of advanced propulsion technologies. The company is investing significantly in alternative fuel and advanced propulsion technologies in the 2009-2012 timeframe, supporting the expansion of GM's hybrid offerings and development of the Chevrolet Volt's extended-range electric vehicle technology.
For example, GM in January announced construction of a new U.S. manufacturing facility to build lithium-ion battery packs for the Volt. Lithium-ion batteries are an essential technology for advanced hybrids and electrically driven vehicles, and an important energy storage technology for other applications. GM has also committed to increasing its number of hybrid models to 14 by 2012, and to making more than 60 percent of its fleet alternative-fuel capable.
The investments in this restructuring plan will allow GM to become a long-term global leader in the development of fuel efficient and advanced technology vehicles. In doing so, the company will contribute to the development of this country's advanced manufacturing capabilities and support the growth of "green" industries in the U.S.
Cost Reduction and Operational Actions
In order to improve capacity utilization and cost competitiveness, GM has consolidated its manufacturing footprint considerably by closing 12 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. between 2000 and 2008. Given the current very difficult market conditions, GM will close an additional 14 facilities by 2012, five more than were included in the Dec. 2, 2008 plan.
Agreements with the UAW concerning several items have been completed and are now being implemented. First, a special attrition program has been negotiated to assist restructuring efforts by reducing excess employment costs through voluntary attrition of the current hourly workforce. Second, the UAW and GM's management have suspended the JOBS program. The program provided full income and benefit protection in lieu of layoff for an indefinite period of time. In addition, GM and the UAW have reached a tentative agreement relative to additional wage and benefit changes.
GM's management estimates that these competitive improvements will further substantially reduce GM's labor costs and represent a major move to close the competitive gap with U.S. transplant competitors. In addition, GM and the UAW have agreed to improve competitive work rules, which will also significantly reduce labor costs.
While these changes materially improve GM's competitiveness and help the company realize a substantial portion of the labor cost savings targeted in the financial projections, further progress will be required to achieve the full targeted savings. GM plans to report these changes to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, who must certify GM's competitiveness relative to the U.S. transplants.
Outside of the U.S., GM has accelerated restructuring plans for its Canadian, European and Asia-Pacific operations, all of which will be funded from sources outside the U.S.
Canada - Discussions are well advanced with the Canadian Federal and Ontario governments regarding long-term financial assistance to execute the restructuring actions necessary for long-term viability and with the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) union on achieving competitive labor costs. The CAW has committed to achieving an hourly cost structure that is consistent with what is ultimately negotiated with the UAW.
Progress has also been made with the Canadian Federal and Ontario governments toward an agreement focused on maintaining proportional levels of manufacturing in Canada and on providing GMCL with a level of long-term financial assistance that is proportional to the total support provided to GM by the U.S. government. GMCL is continuing dialogue with its unions and the Canadian government with a target to finalize both agreements in March 2009.
GM remains optimistic both agreements can be completed by that time, which would enable GMCL to achieve long-term viability and enhance the value of GM. In the event that an agreement cannot be reached, GM will be required to reevaluate its future strategy for GMCL since it would not be viable on a standalone basis.
Europe - Europe is a highly competitive environment that is unprofitable for many vehicle manufacturers, and has a relatively costly restructuring environment. GM has engaged its European labor partners to achieve $1.2 billion in cost reductions, which include several possible closures or spinoffs of manufacturing facilities in high cost locations. In addition, GM is restructuring its sales organization to become more brand focused and better optimize its advertising. GM is also in discussions with the German government for operating and balance sheet support. A sustainable strategy for GM's European operations may include support from partnerships with the German government and/or other European governments. The company expects to resolve solvency issues for its European operations prior to Mar. 31, 2009.
Asia-Pacific - In light of current market conditions, GM is reconsidering the pace of its expansion in the Asia Pacific region. As such, some of the proposed capacity expansion projects and product programs in the region are no longer financially feasible and will not proceed without financial support from either the respective governments or from other partners. GM is holding discussions with its stakeholders to address the required support.
As outlined in the GM viability plan, approximately $27 billion in unsecured public liabilities currently on the company's balance sheet will be converted to a combination of new debt and equity, for a net debt reduction of at least $18 billion.
Negotiations are progressing with advisors of the ad hoc bondholder committee. Term sheets have been exchanged and due diligence regarding GM's restructuring has commenced. The company anticipates that the bond exchange offer will commence in late March, consistent with requirements in the U.S. Treasury loan documents. Under the term sheet proposal, a substantial majority of the pro-forma equity in GM would be distributed to exchanging bondholders and the UAW VEBA.
Discussions with representatives of the UAW VEBA have also been progressing, and due diligence is also proceeding with respect to reaching agreement to convert at least half of future VEBA payments to equity. A draft term sheet has been provided to the UAW, and they have indicated their desire to discuss the VEBA situation with government officials prior to signing any such term sheet. Closing of the conversion of VEBA obligations and unsecured debt to equity should be complete in May of this year.
To complete its aggressive restructuring and fund its ongoing operations amid an uncertain economic environment, GM is requesting the U.S. government to consider funding the company with a combination of secured term loans, revolving credit, and preferred equity.
In the Dec. 2 submission, GM indicated that under a U.S. downside volume scenario, the company would need funding support of approximately $18 billion. In addition, GM assumed that the $4.5 billion U.S. secured revolver credit facility would be renewed when it matures in 2011.