General Motors , in the year since emerging from bankruptcy, has revamped the way it operates, with sharply lower costs, stronger brands and gains in key emerging markets like China, Chief Executive Ed Whitacre told potential investors on Tuesday.
Speaking to Wall Street analysts and potential investors for the first time after GM's emergence in 2009 and ahead of a planned stock offering later this year, Whitacre tried to draw a distinction between the new GM and the automaker that was restructured in a U.S. government-funded bankruptcy.
We're not reintroducing GM today. We're introducing a new GM, because we are a new and much different company than we were 12 months ago, Whitacre said at an event GM hosted at its product development and engineering center in Warren, Michigan. About 200 members of the financial community and other stakeholders attended the GM presentation
The first-of-its kind update on GM's financial progress by its leadership team comes as the largest U.S. automaker prepares for an initial public offering of its stock in what is expected to be one of the largest U.S. IPOs ever.
The event marks the de facto start of a roadshow for a stock sale that would allow the U.S. Treasury to step aside as the majority shareholder in the top U.S. automaker and that bankers said could raise up to $20 billion.
During the daylong event, GM also offered attendees a chance to ride and drive a new fleet of GM cars and trucks, including the heavily touted Chevrolet Volt electric car and the Cruze small car, both slated for U.S. showrooms this year.
Ask any employee of GM and they will tell you our vision is to design, build and sell the world's best vehicle, Whitacre said.
If we once did things that didn't support the vision, and believe me, we did plenty of those, it's dead now or it's on its way out. It's breathing its last breath, he said.
EMERGING MARKETS, NEW CARS
With the balance sheet clean thanks to the $50 billion bailout and bankruptcy financing provided by the Obama administration, Whitacre and other executives tried to sell the message that GM has reformed its product lineup and has a plan to expand further in fast-growing markets.
GM said its combined market share in four key growth markets -- China, India, Brazil and Russia -- stood at 13 percent in the first quarter, ahead of its overall market share of 11.2 percent globally.
The company plans to introduce 70 new products in developing countries through 2014, it said.
All in all, we're the best positioned U.S. automaker in the world's critical emerging markets. Nobody can top our position in the world, Whitacre said.
GM, which ranks No. 1 in China auto sales with more than a 13 percent share, said industry sales in the country -- now the world's largest auto market -- would rise about 20 percent to 16.5 million vehicles this year. In comparison, analysts have projected 2010 U.S. industry sales of 11.5 million to 12 million units.
GM expects a marginal increase in its share of the Chinese market this year, said Tim Lee, who heads GM international operations in Shanghai.
A successful GM IPO would represent an important political win for the Obama administration, which engineered bailouts for both GM and its smaller rival Chrysler in 2009. The restructuring gave the U.S. Treasury a 60.8 percent stake in GM, which it expects to start selling when GM goes public.
The financial benefits from GM's cost-cutting in bankruptcy were reflected in the first quarter when GM surprised analysts with a $865 million profit, its first quarterly profit in three years.
North America President Mark Reuss said average transaction prices rose by $3,000 per vehicle in the region compared to a year ago, incentive spending was down by about $1,200 per vehicle and capacity utilization up sharply to about 85 percent.
Addressing one of the remaining wrinkles in its turnaround -- its Opel European unit -- GM said its ongoing restructuring would allow the company to break even in Europe next year and return to profitability after that.
(Reporting by Soyoung Kim, Kevin Krolicki and Bernie Woodall; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)