Sunday, May 31, 2009

GM Bankruptcy
I don't really care about the GM bankruptcy. Yes, it's sad that an American icon is declaring Chapter 11, but GM is not going away. It is going to restructure its debt and start anew. Maybe it will finally make cars people want to buy. The Europeans and Japanese kicked GM's (and Chrysler's) ass in the 80s, and GM has been limping along since. What needs to be said is how the housing boom helped GM avoid the inevitable and then eventually forced it into bankruptcy.

GM derived a large amount of revenue from its GMAC financing unit and the housing boom spurred this growth. GMAC made a variety of home loans in addition to its car loans. Many people took out home equity loans (from GMAC and other finance companies) to buy Escalades and Suburbans. This credit-driven, artificial growth (artificial because a finance arm should be ancillary to a car maker's main business of selling cars, and because people taking out equity to buy more car than they can afford is not sustainable) led GM down a path it was unable to change when the housing bust and high energy prices and the recession caused people to stop buying cars. I'd like to think GM will be smarter this time around.

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