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GM rings in new year with positive outlook

January 04, 2004
By Barbara Wieland
Lansing State Journal

General Motors Corp. has good reason to celebrate the new year.

GM is expected to be the strongest performer among the three domestic automakers in 2004. As it gears up to release a plethora of new vehicles, the world's largest automaker should keep or gain market share this year.

"We've got a pretty robust outlook," said auto analyst Mike Wall of Okemos research firm CSM Worldwide. "GM will continue to be the best-positioned domestic carmaker."

The coming year will be notable for Lansing-area GM employees, too. Oldsmobile, the car brand identified with Lansing, will fade into history. Shrinking production at Lansing Car Assembly will reduce jobs, while construction of a new assembly plant in Delta Township will get under way.

GM officials couldn't be reached for comment during last week's holiday period, but industry analysts foresee a good year for Lansing's largest private employer.

Automotive executives predict 2004 to be a strong but not record-breaking year, according to a KPMG LLP survey released Friday. Most executives said a return to peak profits still is at least a few years away. Nine percent said 2004 would be worse than 2003.

"In a down economy, our survey has found executives always pushing profitability a few years out, and this year is no different," said Brian Ambrose, national industry director of KPMG's automotive practice. "But what executives are telling us is that they've seen the worst and the industry is poised for a rebound."

Here are highlights of GM's coming year, both locally and corporate-wide:

Job reductions

Lansing will see its first GM layoffs tomorrow, when an afternoon shift at Lansing Car Assembly is closed. The company said previously it didn't know exactly how many people would be put out of work, since some will be asked to take the place of retiring workers.

That could be just the first blow to the factory's 5,500 employees, who make the Oldsmobile Alero, Pontiac Grand Am and Chevrolet Classic.

By the end of 2004, the Classic likely will be the only car left in production. The Alero, with the rest of Oldsmobile, will cease production this year, while production of the Grand Am ends to make way for the G6.

"I don't see any new product coming in," analyst Wall said.

Layoffs at other plants aren't foreseen.

Many of those laid off anticipate getting new jobs at the yet-to-be-built Delta Township plant. Others may choose to take transfers to other GM plants or seek work elsewhere.

Sean McAlinden, chief economist for Ann Arbor's Center for Automotive Research, sees many of the laid-off workers leaving town.

"They may pick another town to go to," he said. "GM is a big system, and there's always an opening somewhere."

Plant construction

This should be the year shovels meet the ground at the delayed Delta Township plant. The plant had originally been slated to open in 2001.

In order to meet a new target date for production in the third quarter of 2006, "GM obviously needs to get construction moving," Wall said.

Once complete, Wall expects GM to build crossover SUVs - smaller versions of full-size SUVs - there. GM hasn't yet announced which models it will make in Delta Township.

"I see a Saturn crossover or a new (Buick) Rendezvous being made in that plant," McAlinden said.

STS comes to town

More good news will reach Lansing when the Cadillac STS goes into production at Lansing Grand River this year.

"The STS is a very important car," McAlinden said. "It's got to appeal to the BMW crowd."

The car will be made at Lansing Grand River, a plant with 1,500 workers.

"Lansing Grand River will be humming," Wall said. "Once you get the STS, I expect good things."

Goodbye to Oldsmobile

The coming year will be bittersweet for GM's Lansing workers and fans of cars made in Lansing 100 years ago.

A century after R.E. Olds was founded in Lansing, GM will put its Oldsmobile brand to bed.

"The (Lansing-made) Alero has done reasonably well and held its own, but other vehicles under the Oldsmobile umbrella really struggled," Wall said.

New products

On the national scene, GM plans to grab attention by releasing a flood of new models onto the market. Between model year 2004 and 2006, the automaker will introduce 30 new vehicles.

Luckily for Lansing, one of the breakaway winners of the pack is made here. The Cadillac SRX is built at Lansing Grand River.

"If you have paid attention to the test reports, the reviews have been almost entirely favorable," said Paul Taylor, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association in McLean, Va.

The SRX blends together two popular trends in vehicle design: Luxury cars and SUVs.

"That is the right car at the right time," he said.

Stronger sales

Finally, GM should expect strong sales this year. GM may even manage to increase its market share, a feat it accomplished just six times in the past 24 years.

Full Article Here

 

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what is the "Chevrolet Classic"?


Also, I strongly feel that GM will increase market share and Ford may even do the same, however, I am not confident about Ford as I am about GM.

The STS will be huge. If this car is a success, which I believe it will, then it will give GM momentum to start selling these cars overseas in large quantities.

I can only hope that GM keeps this "fresh" look every so often. I have a bad feeling that after these 30 or so new products come to market, GM may keep these cars stale without adding any new major improvements in hope to extract as much money as possible from a certain car; like the old malibu or the cavalier or what Ford did to the Taurus
 

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The Chevrolet Classic is the 2003 Malibu (the old one). They are keeping it around for fleet sales, and have renamed it classic, as not to confuse consumers.
 

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Originally posted by LegendNH@Jan 5 2004, 03:20 AM
what is the "Chevrolet Classic"?


Also, I strongly feel that GM will increase market share and Ford may even do the same, however, I am not confident about Ford as I am about GM.

The STS will be huge. If this car is a success, which I believe it will, then it will give GM momentum to start selling these cars overseas in large quantities.

I can only hope that GM keeps this "fresh" look every so often. I have a bad feeling that after these 30 or so new products come to market, GM may keep these cars stale without adding any new major improvements in hope to extract as much money as possible from a certain car; like the old malibu or the cavalier or what Ford did to the Taurus
CHEVROLET CLASSIC IS OLD BODY MALIBU FOR FLEET SALE (LIKE 2000 +2001 CHEVROLET LUMIINA) :type:
 
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