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“They Were Suspending My Credit Line”

So Mitt is still trying to dig himself out of the hole he created when he declared, “Let Detroit go bankrupt”?

I suspect most of the commentary on this ad will focus on the irony that, had Mitt had his way, all of GM’s dealers would have gone under, and without the buyout deals they ultimately got.

Me, I’m a bit surprised that Mitt didn’t choose an IN Chrysler dealer. Not only did Chrysler offer its dealers a much stingier package, but some dealers from IN fought losing their franchises all the way to SCOTUS, and some are still suing over “takings.”

But I’m most surprised by the sparse language used here to portray a dealer closure: “I received a letter from General Motors: they were suspending my credit line.”

Credit lines?!?!? Mitt wants to tug at heart strings and hit Obama with an attack akin to the Bain attacks that are working so well in swing states by invoking credit lines?!?!? Really?

Yes, it is true that at the heart of any car dealer is a credit line. But by including that in this ad, it seems to me, Mitt does several things. It reminds everyone who knows what role a credit line plays in a car dealer that the precipitating cause of the auto crash was the credit crash. It reminds viewers that the banksters, in killing their own industry, also killed the car industry. And not just any banksters, either. In GM’s case, the bankster in question was 51% owned by Cerberus Capital, a bunch of high profile Republicans (Dan Quayle and John Snow, among others) who were trying to do what Mitt got rich off: looting companies (in Cerberus’ case, including Chrysler) while profiting from the financialization that such looting offered. Only they were so bad at it, they effectively had to be bailed out by the taxpayers along with GM and Chrysler.

Thus, the villain in this ad–at least as described by the dealer–is someone just like Mitt, only stupider. The villain in the ad is not Obama–not to people who know how the auto industry works. It’s Mitt’s stupid Republican friends.

Mitt Advocates Taking Healthcare from Retirees to Give Money to Bailed Out Banks

Someone gave Mitt Romney a shovel just in time to dig shit snow in MI for the next two weeks. There’s a lot that is fact-impaired in this op-ed doubling down on the “let GM go bankrupt” (starting with the lack of funding for a bankruptcy, meaning a managed bankruptcy was impossible).

By the spring of 2009, instead of the free market doing what it does best, we got a major taste of crony capitalism, Obama-style.

Thus, the outcome of the managed bankruptcy proceedings was dictated by the terms of the bailout. Chrysler’s “secured creditors,” who in the normal course of affairs should have been first in line for compensation, were given short shrift, while at the same time, the UAWs’ union-boss-controlled trust fund received a 55 percent stake in the firm.

He’s complaining, of course, that VEBA (the trust fund run by professionals that allowed the auto companies to spin off contractual obligations–retiree healthcare–to the unions) got a stake in Chrysler while Chrysler’s secured creditors took a haircut.

So, in part, he’s basically complaining that the bailout preserved the healthcare a bunch of 55+ year old blue collar workers were promised. He’s pissed they got to keep their healthcare.

He’s also complaining that banks took a haircut, as would happen in any managed bankruptcy.

But it’s more than that. He’s complaining that a bunch of banks that themselves had been bailed out had to take a haircut. He’s complaining, for example, that JP Morgan Chase, Chrysler’s largest creditor at the time and the recipient, itself, of $68.6B in bailout loans, had to take a haircut on $2B in loans to Chrysler.

Mitt’s op-ed makes him sound a lot like Jimmy Lee, Chase’s top negotiator on the auto bailout, who,

demanded to know why, if the government thought banks important enough to give them tens of billions in TARP money, it wanted to squeeze them on [the Chrysler] deal.

I guess Mitt, too, thinks the banks are so important they should take precedence over retiree healthcare, too.

But as the kind of bankster who, at Bain, relied on government subsidies to fund his “restructurings” that ended up taking people’s jobs and healthcare, that’s not all that surprising.

Still, the UAW retirees who still have healthcare today instead of Jamie Dimon having another yacht probably don’t feel the same way as Mitt does.

Obama Administration Finally Brags about Jobs Created in Auto Bailout

The Obama Administration was gung ho to brag about the GM IPO last year. But if I’m not mistaken, this is the first time the White House has bragged nationally about jobs created thanks to the auto bailout (Ron Bloom, who got promoted into an official Assistant to the President role at the beginning of the year, wrote this).

Today brings word of more good news for the American auto industry. GM announced that it would hire 4,200 workers at seventeen of its plants around the country.

President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in a generation and nowhere was this devastion [sic] felt harder than in the American auto industry and the communities it has supported for decades. In the year before GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy, the auto industry shed over 400,000 jobs.

Facing this situation head on, the President made a bold and, at the time, politically unpopular choice: Despite calls from critics to simply let these companies – and the entire American auto industry – crumble, he refused to allow these companies to fail. Had the Administration failed to intervene, conservative estimates suggest that it would have cost at least an additional one million jobs and devastated vast parts of our nation’s industrial heartland.

But at the same time, the President did not provide unconditional support.  He insisted that the companies and their stakeholders make tough choices and undertake massive restructurings requiring huge sacrifices from all of their stakeholders.

Because of this “tough love,” the American auto industry is now positioned to grow and prosper as the economy recovers.  Since GM and Chrysler emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009 the auto industry has added 115,000 jobs – the fastest pace of job growth in the auto industry since 1998. Last year, for the first time in 16 years, the Detroit Three actually gained market share compared to their foreign counterparts.

And these companies are not  just making cars and trucks – they’re making the kind of fuel efficient cars and trucks that will power us to energy independence, protect consumers against rising gas prices, and ensure America wins the future.

Some of the workers GM is hiring and re-hiring in today’s announcement will be at work producing larger-than-initially-planned quantities of the widely acclaimed Chevy Volt. And just last month, Ford – which didn’t receive government assistance but which supported our aid to GM and Chrysler and has said publicly that it would not have survived if the rest of the American auto industry had been allowed to collapse – reported its best first-quarter profit in more than a decade thanks in large part to its new fuel-efficient vehicles.

In the wake of an historic recession, there is no doubt that much work remains. And we will not rest until every American who is looking for work can find a job. But today’s announcement is another positive sign – including more than 2 million private sector jobs created over the past 14 months – that we’re seeing across the country.

The comparative silence about the success of the bailout in the terms that really matter to actual people–jobs–not only confirms Main Street suspicions about the White House viewing the economy solely through the lens of the banksters, but it also leads beltway folks like John Dickerson to wonder out loud whether there is anything a President can do to fix the economy (Dickerson must have skipped those weeks when his American history class covered the New Deal).

The effects of the too-small stimulus, though real, are a lot harder to see. But aside from the decade-long Military Industrial Complex stimulus the DC area has enjoyed, the auto bailout and related energy investments was the biggest concentrated stimulus the Administration championed. And it has had an effect, both in hiring at GM and Chrysler, but also in hiring in MI more generally.

It’d be nice if the Administration not only bragged about that, but replicated it for places like Nevada.

Update: John Dickerson corrects me; this July 2010 briefing (a presser leading up to an Obama trip to visit several plants in the MidWest, bragged about jobs created). Thanks to Dickerson for the correction.

GM Squanders What Tax Payers Gave It

Let me say at the outset that the GM bailout was far, far better handled than the bankster bailouts. And as a Michigan resident whose family still has ties to the auto business, I am tremendously grateful for that bailout.

That said, this is why I have not declared mission accomplished, in spite of the successful IPO last year.

You see, no one will be able to weigh the success or failure of the GM bailout for another year or so–until such time as the cars developed entirely under the leadership team picked by a bunch of people who knew nothing about the auto industry start rolling off the lines. As I noted last year, the success of the IPO was significantly premised on a number of business decisions made by Rick Wagoner and others fired during the bailout. Wagoner deserves the credit for his emphasis on China (and places like Brazil), which is the biggest source of GM’s profit these days and was widely touted as the reason it made a good stock buy. And Bob Lutz deserves the credit for GM’s improved product line.

So we won’t know whether the bailout succeeded until we see whether the guys now in charge can make decisions that are as smart as those made by the guys fired in the bailout.

Yet, as MSNBC lays out, thus far, it looks like the finance guys Steven Rattner brought in to run a car company have, predictably, made some really stupid decisions.

[GM CEO Daniel] Akerson recently told the Wall Street Journal that a GM car was just like the can of Diet Coke he was drinking during the interview.

“It’s a consumer product,” he said. “GM has to start acting like a consumer-driven, not engineering-driven, company. We sell a consumer product — our can just costs $30,000.”

Industry insiders with a memory of the 1990s immediately blasted this view as a return to [GM]’s failed [early 1990s] strategy to commoditize a product for which a strong emotional connection is important to drive sales and to cultivate brand loyalty.

“The only difference between GM then and GM now is that this is a company that has only recently emerged from the abyss of bankruptcy, one that can ill-afford a single misstep brought upon by misguided leadership, even though it has the most competitive lineup (of vehicles) it has had in decades,” [auto writer Peter] Delorenzo said.

It’s one thing to try to sell sugar water with nothing more than emotional attachment. But so long as there are well-engineered vehicles like Hondas on the road, you can’t dismiss the importance of engineering in designing cars.

In addition, Akerson (like Ed Whitacre before him) is trying to cut the time to market for GM’s cars.

Now Akerson says speed and cost are the aspects on which he will concentrate, telling the Journal that “during World War II, GM produced tanks and equipment within four years. Why should it take four years to put a car out?”

There have, historically, been two models for cutting the time to market for cars. There’s the model Chrysler used in the late 1990s, which led to the introduction of things like the PT Cruiser that were cute but which weren’t really good cars; that’s one of the things that led to a serious decline in Chrysler’s quality. Then there’s Toyota’s quality driven approach, which has served as the standard for Ford and GM in recent years as they have accelerated their own development time frame.

But as Toyota’s recent troubles show, not even Toyota can make cars in as short a time frame as they do and ensure their quality. What makes Akerson think GM can do what Toyota can’t?

Read more

UAW: A Seat at the Table

There’s always a lot of tut-tutting when the White House releases the list of people who attend a state dinner. While a lot of that, for the dinner honoring Hu Jintao tonight, has to do with which members of Congress have blown off invites (John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell, though McConnell’s wife Elaine Chao will attend with her father), I’m rather interested in who will attend from the auto industry.

Not Ford’s CEO Alan Mullaly, who has been working with manufacturers that export to China for years. Not Dan Akerson, who is CEO of that auto company that American taxpayers own that does a great deal of business in China (our investment in GM might be incredibly well-served to give GM this kind of access).

But Bob King, the head of the UAW.

Now, maybe I should be happy that UAW’s head gets a seat at the table with the leader of the country his union has lost so many jobs to.

But I can’t help but remember the transactional language King used to talk about his support for the Administration’s KORUS deal.

King countered that the deal was not perfect; there were many things he objected to about the agreement. However, King added that, “It was important to endorse in order to reward the administration for its good behavior of including labor in negotiations.”

[snip]

When I asked King why the UAW decided to endorse the treaty without consulting others unions he said, “We were on a tight deadline to endorse. If we wanted to be relevant, we needed to weigh in right away with an endorsement.”

Back then, it sure sounded like King was happy to sell out workers in exchange for 800 jobs and a seat at the table. But now I’m wondering whether King got a literal seat at the table.

Rattner’s Pump Dump

When Steven Rattner published this piece on the GM IPO in HuffPo, he had not yet been sued by NY’s Attorney General for allegedly being “willing to do whatever it took to get his hands on pension fund money including paying kickbacks, orchestrating a movie deal, and funneling campaign contributions,” nor had he yet settled–with no admission of guilt–the SEC investigation that alleges he, “delivered special favors and conducted sham transactions that corrupted the Retirement Fund’s investment process.” Thus, it would go too far to call the Steven Rattner that published that piece a fraudster, or even an alleged fraudster.

But a big part of this victory lap is fraudulent.

A key part of Rattner’s argument is that by fixing management issues, Team Auto dramatically altered GM’s value.

A fashionable bit of revisionist history maintains that former GM chief executive Richard Wagoner should not have been fired, especially by a bunch of Wall Street guys turned government bureaucrats. Yet, Ford — which not only avoided bankruptcy but will achieve record profits this year — faced exactly the same challenges as GM: the same United Auto Workers, the same competition from Asian transplants, the same oscillating gasoline prices and the same credit crisis. Why did the two automakers end up on such different paths? Management.

Now, I don’t much agonize over Rattner’s decision to fire Wagoner. I absolutely support the idea of firing CEOs whose companies have to be bailed out. Hell, I even agree that Wagoner’s firing is probably a key part of getting the banksters to trust GM again. But I recognize–as Rattner doesn’t–that Wagoner had started along the same path that Ford’s Alan Mulally had, only about a year and a half behind Mulally, meaning those efforts were more directly affected by the disaster caused by Rattner’s buddies on Wall Street. But on balance, I’m perfectly happy with Rattner’s decision to fire Wagoner.

What I’m not fine with, though, is Rattner’s attack on Wagoner in the same piece he takes credit for two or three business decisions that Wagoner made. Wagoner indubitably presided over GM’s emphasis on China and Brazil, which Rattner calls “enormously successful.”

He likewise oversaw–with Bob Lutz–the development of the GM products now experiencing success in the marketplace, particularly the Malibu, Equinox, and Camaro, which rolled out just as the government came in (the interim team shares credit for the Cruze and Volt).

Its products, while vastly improved in recent years, still do not match those of Ford and its non-U.S. competitors.

[snip]

And at 15 million, General Motors — with its improved products, tighter management, lower cost structure and better balance sheet — will be gushing profits.

And by negotiating VEBA, Wagoner also had a significant role in setting up the conditions that enabled Team Auto to take retiree health care off GM’s books, a big part of the structural costs Rattner takes credit for.

At least $8 billion of annual structural costs sliced from the company’s bleeding North American operations.

If you want to pump up GM’s IPO price based significantly on its improved product quality and its success in China and Brazil, then you cannot at the same time make the firing of Rick Wagoner a central part of your argument for the value of the company. Either Wagoner did a good job on market and product issues, in which case Rattner’s friends are justified to stress improved product quality and great growth potential in China and Brazil, or Wagoner was a complete failure, in which case the folks pushing this IPO are pushing shit. (I believe GM has a great deal of value, though wouldn’t presume to describe its the fair market value of its stock.)

And if all of that doesn’t lead you to question Rattner’s motives and credibility here, check out whom he designates as the appropriate person to pick stocks.

I’ll leave the stock picking to Jim Cramer while observing that GM’s IPO was priced at a discount to Ford’s trading multiple. That’s understandable, given the uncertainties around GM. At the same time, proving itself to Wall Street and closing that multiple gap remains a source of upside for the newly public automaker.

Jim Cramer, famous above all for pumping up stocks with his overheated bluster.

Look, I’m all in favor of Rattner having the benefit of the doubt as he defends himself against charges of fraud. I’m thrilled that GM had a successful stock offering today, even if I’m cautious about what it means. But I’m not in favor of pumping up the stock price of GM based on a specious argument claiming credit for things Rick Wagoner did, even while pointing to Wagoner’s firing as a key part of GM’s value proposition.

Happy GM Day.

Wall Street and the Administration are hailing the GM IPO and claiming victory.

General Motors Co GM.UL pulled off the biggest initial public offering in U.S. history on Wednesday, raising $20.1 billion after pricing shares at the top of the proposed range in response to huge investor demand.

GM sold 478 million common shares at $33 each, raising $15.77 billion, as well as $4.35 billion in preferred shares, more than the initially planned $4 billion.

Including an option that would allow underwriters to sell more shares, expected to be exercised in coming days, GM looks set to raise $23.1 billion, making it the biggest initial public offering ever.

The strong response to the stock sale reflects a groundswell of investor confidence that GM is moving beyond its unpopular, taxpayer-funded bankruptcy in June 2009 with sharply lower costs and higher profit potential.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I will always remain grateful that Obama bailed out the auto industry, and I am a direct beneficiary of that policy. And I do think many of the decisions and actions Team Auto took last year–most notably the fast track bankruptcy–were the right decisions, incredibly well executed. And I think the cars currently in GM showrooms are good cars.

But this IPO is no great reflection, one way or another, on the success of the bailout.

Indeed, it may be something far worse. It may be a propaganda stunt that will allow the banksters–the ones in charge of the bailout, as well as the current private equity CEO, as well as the firm which consulted on the IPO whose Chairman is auditioning to take on a top advisory role in the Administration, as well as the big banks involved in the IPO whose TBTF status the Administration has fiercely protected–to claim victory. And of course, every single one of those banksters has a huge incentive to create a stunt that will allow the Administration to claim victory. But that won’t say much about or do much to ensure GM’s long-term value.

Mind you, I hope that’s not true. I hope the universe of possible car buyers believe that GM’s cars reflect a value of $33/share or more (the banksters think they’ll be able to drive up the share price in the coming days). More importantly, I hope GM sustains recent improvements in their product line even as the new top executives–particularly the ones who had nothing to do with the currently improved products who have changed the process and people that produced those cars–remain in charge.

But we won’t know the answer to that question for another 2 years or so. And we won’t know whether GM will improve its brand image enough to make cars more profitable for some time yet, either.

And, too, I hope those banksters driving up the price of GM’s stock keep that stock for the long term. I hope this doesn’t resemble a 90s style, pump and dump, IPO. But we won’t know that for a little while either.

What we know is that the bankster-CEO pointed to lower costs (which the bailout did make possible) and GM’s strong position in China (which the purportedly failed Rick Wagoner implemented long before the bailout but which didn’t, by itself, do much for GM’s value before the bailout) in his pitch for the IPO.

In a road show for investors spearheaded by GM Chief Executive Dan Akerson and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell, the automaker has emphasized both its sharply lower costs and its exposure to key growth markets like China.

But it’s not clear he said much about the cars. The cars that, one way or another, will ultimately determine the success or failure of the bailout.

In other words, what this IPO seems to reflect is the successful sale of a new balance sheet tied to a market mix that, before the bailout, Wall Street was none too impressed by. It seems to reflect the enduring belief on the part of the banksters that the only value worth measuring is that determined by Wall Street, and not that value measured by the ultimate consumers of a product.

The GM products shepherded through by Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz are selling well at stores. The GM balance sheet shepherded through by Steven Rattner is selling well on Wall Street.

But what remains to be seen is whether the cars produced in two years by the development process implemented by Ed Whitacre and Dan Akerson will sustain and increase the value of cars in showrooms to match the $33/share value pitched by the banksters.

Good luck and happy GM day.

Obama Comes to MI to Celebrate Korean Technology

Let me start by saying I’m thrilled the Obama Administration has focused stimulus and energy efficiency funds to support a number of new battery plants in and around Michigan. For all my complaints about the Obama Administration, it has used the auto bailout as an opportunity to support new technology for the auto industry. But I think Obama’s upcoming visit to Holland, MI (Crazy Pete’s hometown in West Michigan) to attend the ground-breaking of a new LG Chem-Compact Power battery factory offers a bittersweet lesson.

South Korea-based LG Chem is building the $300-million, 650,000-square-foot battery plant in Holland that is set to start operating in 2012. LG Chem and its Troy-based subsidiary Compact Power are behind the battery system to power the Chevrolet Volt, the nation’s first mass-market extended range plug-in electric vehicle, which will launch later this year.

LG Chem has received $151.4 million in grants from the Department of Energy for its Holland plant.

The factory, which will be able to make 15 million to 20 million battery cells a year, is one of at least five battery plants built in Michigan. Johnson Controls, through its joint venture with French battery company Saft, also is converting one of its existing factories in Holland into a lithium-ion battery plant.

No details were immediately released about the timing of the event and whether it will be open to the public.

The government has distributed more than $2 billion in grant money to advanced battery manufacturing to create a base for high-tech battery making in the United States.

Today, most of the world’s advanced batteries come from Korea, Japan and China.

Last month, the groundbreaking of Dow Kokam’s advanced battery plant in Midland attracted Vice President Joe Biden.

The preliminary coverage of the event has noted how unusual it is for a President to attend the groundbreaking for what is effectively a foreign firm. (h/t Leen) Yet no one–at least as far as I’ve seen–has faulted the White House decision to attend. That’s because, here in MI, we’re desperate for the jobs. And even those outside of MI point to battery technology as one of the many technologies in which the US lags–at its great cost.

There’s even a big benefit to the auto industry: in my meetings with GM on the Volt, they told me they’ll save $200 per car in battery shipping costs once they can source locally. It’s one of the places GM anticipates beginning, over time, to bring production costs down so the Volt and related follow-on cars will one day be profitable.

But the opening of these battery factories in the US should be read in tandem with this excellent article from Intel founder Andy Grove.

Grove’s article focuses on our inability to scale new technologies.

Clearly, the great Silicon Valley innovation machine hasn’t been creating many jobs of late — unless you are counting Asia, where American technology companies have been adding jobs like mad for years.

The underlying problem isn’t simply lower Asian costs. It’s our own misplaced faith in the power of startups to create U.S. jobs. Americans love the idea of the guys in the garage inventing something that changes the world. New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman recently encapsulated this view in a piece called “Start-Ups, Not Bailouts.” His argument: Let tired old companies that do commodity manufacturing die if they have to. If Washington really wants to create jobs, he wrote, it should back startups.

Mythical Moment

Friedman is wrong. Startups are a wonderful thing, but they cannot by themselves increase tech employment. Equally important is what comes after that mythical moment of creation in the garage, as technology goes from prototype to mass production. This is the phase where companies scale up. They work out design details, figure out how to make things affordably, build factories, and hire people by the thousands. Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter.

The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that’s the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs.

Grove uses advanced battery technology as one example to show the problem with shipping all US manufacturing overseas because it no longer invests in scaling up new technologies. When we shipped our electronics production overseas, we shipped with it the evolving technology tied to it, which eventually included the all-important battery technology. Read more

GM’s Turn for a Big Recall

Because so many people like to accuse me of beating up on Toyota:

General Motors has recalled 1.3 million Chevrolet and Pontiac models in North America for power steering failures that are tied to 14 crashes and one injury in the United States, the company said Tuesday.

The recall affects 2005-2010 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007-2010 Pontiac G5 models sold in the United States, 2005-2006 Pontiac Pursuit vehicles sold in Canada, and 2005-2006 Pontiac G4 models sold in Mexico.

Detroit-based GM told the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration about the recall Monday after concluding its own investigation first launched in January 2009.[my emphasis]

The news that this happens after the cars’ warranty expires is bad. But note the difference here with Toyota: GM did their own investigation. Toyota, on the other hand, didn’t even start one until NHTSA made them do so. And even then, they did so with a firm designed to produce a whitewash.

GM will likely find reason to be embarrassed over this. (And I hope the things they said about the Cruze’s quality, which launches this year, are true.) But there is still a lesson here in stonewalling versus a real effort to solve the problem.

GM Brings Flint, MI to China

In one of my favorite posts on the risks of a GM collapse, I described the risk of GM’s Chinese partner buying up GM’s American brands.

I was talking with mr. emptywheel about what one of the bad–but by no means worst–case scenarios in a GM bankruptcy would be. This scenario is just one of several that might happen–by no means guaranteed, and Congress would fight the scenario at every stage, though with increasingly less leverage. But it is a scenario that follows a great deal of logic about possible outcomes. It is this scenario, though, that explains why both Toyota (I’ve seen reported–looking for the link) and many in Congress want to bailout GM before it gets to bankruptcy.

Here’s the short version: more details below.

  1. GM files for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
  2. GM’s Chinese partner, SAIC, buys much of GM (Buick, Chevy, Cadillac)
  3. GM/SAIC starts importing Chinese-made Buicks and Chevys, undercutting Toyota’s cost advantages
  4. GM/SAIC owns the Volt technology, requiring US firms to lease it if they wanted to use it

Which is why my stomach turned at the news that GM is about to cede majority control over its Chinese operations to SAIC.

G.M. has become the second-largest automaker in China mainly through a 50-50 venture with S.A.I.C. that makes a wide range of G.M.-designed cars. Under the deal being completed, G.M. would sell a 1 percent stake in the venture to S.A.I.C., raising the Chinese automaker’s share to 51 percent, although G.M. would retain equal voting rights in company decisions and have an option to buy back the stake later, people with knowledge of the transaction said.

Michael Dunne, an auto consultant specializing in Asian markets, said that for G.M. to accept a minority holding in its main joint venture marked an inevitable decline in G.M.’s influence in China, which has overtaken the United States as the world’s largest auto market.

“Dropping below the 50-50 partnership is huge — there may be a way to preserve voting rights, but symbolically, it is a step down,” Mr. Dunne said.

G.M. is separately putting its Indian operations into a new joint venture with S.A.I.C., effectively selling about half of the operations to S.A.I.C. as well.

China will continue to use this moment of weakness (for the country as a whole, not just for GM) to take over our equities in international trade. And few people seem to be watching.