Ailing Isuzu

Wagoner: GM will help, but there's a limit

TOKYO -- General Motors will aid troubled Isuzu Motors Ltd. through more integrated purchasing and other joint approaches, but there are limits to that support, GM President Rick Wagoner said.

"We do not set ourselves up as the financial provider of last resort," he said. "That's not fair to the GM shareholders."

He said that problems at Isuzu and other GM affiliates, however, were not to blame for GM's poor earnings results recently. He also said that GM does not "comprehend in any of the cases significantly raising" its stake in affiliates Isuzu, where GM owns 49 percent, Suzuki Motor Corp., where GM owns 20 percent, or Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., where GM owns 20 percent.

In other comments at the Tokyo International Automotive Conference, sponsored by Automotive News and Nikkei Business, he said that GM would have to send some key managers to lead the turnaround at Daewoo Motor Corp., if GM's non-binding memorandum of understanding to buy the bankrupt Korean carmaker goes through.

"It's probably unfair for me to say that our quarterly results have been affected by our alliance partners," Wagoner said. "It has not been a major driver of quarterly performance, either plus or minus." Usually, he added, the problems have been GM's own.

If GM takes over Daewoo, he said, "Our first order of business with a new Daewoo is to get that company turned around."

"We will have to supply some leadership and management," he said, although GM has "quite a bit of respect for the operating management" at Daewoo. Whether those managers would come from GM or its alliance partners "has yet to be sorted out," he said.

Asked about the possibility of using Daewoo manufacturing facilities to make non-Daewoo models, he said, "I wouldn't rule out the prospect of product sharing in the future."

You can reach James B. Treece at jtreece@crain.com

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