DETROIT -- General Motors is postponing a decision on the fate of its Hummer brand for a few weeks as it works to complete a sale.
Our efforts to sell Hummer are proceeding, and there are several parties interested -- and I would say really interested -- in the brand, Troy Clarke, GMs president of North America, said during a call to dealers Monday. Were still very much in the process, although that process is maturing.
On Feb. 17, former CEO Rick Wagoner said GM would decide Hummers future by today. Clarke told dealers that GM would have a final announcement on Hummer in the next few weeks rather than months. CEO Fritz Henderson reiterated that timetable in a press conference today.
The postponement stretches the uncertainty over Hummer into an 11th month. GM said in June that Hummer was for sale. The urgency to sell has heightened as GMs financial situation has deteriorated and the automaker made unloading brands a central part of its viability plan submitted to the U.S. Treasury Department on Feb. 17.
Clarke said GM doesnt yet have a determination on whether Hummer will be sold or shuttered. We feel its worth some additional time to see if a transaction can be made, he said.
Henderson, in his first press conference as CEO, said: "We have been in dialogue with several interested parties. I set a goal for myself to try to have a decision on it by March 31; we wont have that today. We are still in talks and will likely know if we have a buyer or not in a few weeks.''
No heads up on Wagoner
In other topics discussed with dealers Monday:
Dealers asked why they werent informed earlier that GMs CEO Rick Wagoner would be resigning. Clarke and I found out yesterday, said Mark LaNeve, GMs vice president of vehicle sales, service and marketing. We had to scramble this morning to put an employee communication together. Letting the dealers know as quickly as we can is a top priority. We just didnt have any heads up at all.
LaNeve also told dealers that GM wouldn't grant extra incentives only to those who took additional inventory. Many dealer complained they felt pressured to take more vehicles than they wanted in order to win spiffs. LaNeve explained that GM has had to make incentives available only to those who ordered more vehicles because GM needed to keep some reasonable level of cash flow. But he added, We dont want to do this as an ongoing practice; Im not going to guarantee that were not going to do it again.
Clarke told dealers that GM understands how import leasing is for dealers, especially in certain markets and on luxury vehicles. He says GM does want to offer leasing again but doesnt have the cash to do it now. He said that GM has no leasing announcements planned for at least the next two months.
Dealers asked what will happen to the brands given the governments urging for a more aggressive approach to downsizing. Clarke says GM still has to meet with the Obama administrations auto task force to determine how aggressive it should be in shrinking its brands and nameplates. GM has said it plans to go to shrink to four core brands -- Cadillac, Chevrolet, Buick, GMC – and retain Pontiac as a niche brand. It is looking to sell Saab and possibly Saturn in addition to Hummer.
As we have reviewed our plans with them, they seem to be supportive around the plan of four core brands and Pontiac as a niche type brand, Clarke says. I dont know if their statement is anything different than endorsing the four core brands that we laid out.
LaNeve and Clarke assured dealers that the sacrifices theyve made by taking additional inventory and the future sacrifice of less brands and nameplates should be the extent of dealer sacrifice.
I dont believe it is a case where we throw the plan out and start all over again, Clarke says. Its to work with the plan weve got, but to make more aggressive steps.