GM stock shrugs off Akerman comments of streamlined dealer network enjoying higher throughput and profitability

In remarks prepared for delivery, Dan Akerson, Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company (NYSE: GM), delivered the keynote address at the National Automotive Dealers Association/IHS Automotive Forum in New York. Among his many statements, he noted GM’s higher throughput and profits from the streamlined dealer network, but GM stock still traded lower and closed at 29.59.

Hosted by the New York International Auto Show, the forum brought together leaders from OEMs, suppliers, dealers and media to discuss major industry events and focus on how the economic recovery will affect automotive stakeholders.

For a complete read of the transcript, visit http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/news.detail.brand_GM.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2011/Apr/0419_akerson

Torque News, for the record, is working on a new experimental dealer interview project whereby Akerson’s words fit right in, and we will use in the future to test dealer response. Here are just some of Akerson’s statements that we feel will become a basis for future interviews to get the real fundamental picture for the stock using dealers.

Opening

It’s a great time to talk about transformation… and you have to admit, the transformation taking place in the auto industry right now… and nowhere more than at GM… is pretty exciting stuff. It’s a thrill to walk the floor of GM’s assembly plants… or any OEM assembly plant… and watch a miracle-a-minute roll off the line.

It’s a thrill to see the pride in the faces of the men and women who build these incredible machines. It’s a thrill to see the wonder and delight on customers’ faces when they walk through a show like this one. Even hard-boiled New Yorkers have been known to crack a smile. And it’s a thrill to visit a dealership, where it all comes together.

Akerson especially noted consumers

Consumers are coming off the sideline. with retail sales for the industry up 28 percent year to date. At GM, we continue to project U.S. industry sales this year of 13-13.5 million. That’s a great improvement if we can sustain it.

And the excitement is showing in other ways, too. The NADA’s latest “Dealer Attitude Survey” shows an overall improvement in GM dealer satisfaction of 35 points in the last 18 months.

We have improved across the board… and hit historical highs in virtually every category – from franchise value… to consideration of dealer input… to corporate helpfulness.
Wow. That may be the first time I’ve ever used the words “corporate” and “helpful” together.

Still, it’s our best performance in six years and we’re not going to stop there. At GM, our goal is to have the best dealer relations in the business. It’s one of our top focus areas in the company, and a personal priority of mine.

Akerson admits mistakes of past

GM didn’t always do a great job listening. I know that, but I can’t erase it. What I can do is tell you that we’re now working hard to re-build positive, lasting relationships with all of you.

The hard truth is that right sizing our dealer network was extremely difficult. It was also a necessary component of GM’s transformation… and it’s making a real difference.
Today, GM’s streamlined dealer network is enjoying higher throughput levels and higher profitability. But the best metric is this: more than 90 percent of our dealers are now profitable.

After all we’ve been through together, that’s great – we love to see it and we want to see it improve even more. Today, many GM dealers are using their higher profits to invest in their people, processes, and facilities.

By the end of this year, about 3,300 of our 4,500 U.S. dealers will have started or completed a voluntary facilities upgrade program. This represents a huge investment by GM and our dealers to improve their dealerships and make them more appealing to customers.

Overall, GM dealers tell us we’re doing a better job of listening and incorporating their ideas and experience into our plans. And we should be. We should have been doing more of that all along.

Admits this is a tough business

So, one-quarter through the year, sales are up. Showrooms are bustling. Dealers are in the pink and making money. Add to that the largest IPO in history… the North American Car of the Year… the Motor Trend Car and Truck of the Year… and a newcomer might conclude that this business isn’t so tough.

And he’d be dead wrong. Believe me, there is no such misconception from this quarter. This is a tough business. It’s hyper-competitive, and the industry in general… and GM in particular… are in the midst of a transformation like we’ve never seen before.

I could spend all day talking about what we are addressing at GM alone. It’s safe to say that nothing is off the table. We are examining how we can improve everything we do to fulfill our vision of designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles.

Industry perspective

From an industry perspective, I believe our biggest challenge lies in ending our almost complete dependence on oil to supply the world’s automotive energy requirements. This transformation has moved in fits and starts… but the current run-up in oil prices really brings it into sharp relief.

Today, the average U.S. price-per-gallon continues racing toward $4.00… and is already well over that level in some markets. With the start of the summer driving season now just six weeks away, the likelihood of a sustained decline in the near future appears slim.

The last time prices climbed to these levels, in the summer of 2008, it caught all of us flatfooted. In many respects, soaring energy costs were the spark that immolated the global economy.

We are better prepared today, no question. In 2008, GM didn’t have a world-class small car in the U.S. market. Today, we have the Chevy Cruze in our lineup… the best-selling Chevrolet in the world right now.

In short: we at GM… and we as an industry… are much better prepared than we were three years ago to weather the storm of high fuel prices.

However, the bigger point is that no one knows where the price of oil is headed next. That volatility… along with limited global petroleum reserves… and soaring demand for energy around the world… mean that we cannot depend on oil forever.

I believe we’re moving from an industry that, for 100 years, has been based on vehicles that are mechanically-driven and petroleum-fueled… to ones that will eventually be driven and fueled by electricity.

We’re at the start of one of the innovative revolutions that transforms industries… that transforms societies… and it’s a very big deal. We’re not there yet, of course… but the change is coming. And faster than many might think.

That’s why the Chevy Volt is so important. And yet we know that vehicles like Volt are just a glimpse of what’s to come.

Followed by CNBC Interview

Mr. Akerson also spoke will Phil LeBeau of CNBC today where he noted GM and the auto industry are much better prepared than they were three years ago to weather the storm of high fuel prices.

When asked, though, where the pain threshold was for consumers and the industry, he admitted that the industry might handle $4 - $4.25, but $4.50 to $5.00 would negatively affect consumer buying of vehicles.

Disclosure: Frank Sherosky, creator of the chart and author of "Awaken Your Speculator Mind" does not hold any stock or option positions in this equity at this time.

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About the Author: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks and writes articles, books and ebooks via authorfrank.com, but may be contacted here by email: FrankS@TorqueNews.com

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