Jerry York, a former board member of General Motors Corp (GMGMQ.PK) and an executive at Chrysler two decades ago, said on Tuesday the bankruptcies for the two automakers were absolutely necessary.
The bankruptcy filings were needed to allow GM and Chrysler to pare debt and dealers, and both companies have a chance to survive after the restructurings, said York, an adviser to billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian who served on GM's board in 2006.
Chrysler filed for bankruptcy on April 30 and a sale of its best assets to a company led by Italy's Fiat SpA (FIA.MI) has been approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge. It hopes to push the new company out of bankruptcy quickly.
GM followed rival Chrysler into bankruptcy on June 1 and hopes to complete a similar sale process by the end of August.
I would rate my confidence as being high for both automakers, York said. These companies are focused.
York, speaking to reporters after an appearance at an industry event at Oakland University, said he would not be interested in returning to GM's board, or on serving on another automaker's board.
It sounds to me like they are doing a pretty good job of staffing the board, York said of GM.
When asked whether that meant he would decline a draft to the GM board, York responded, That is correct.
York said he might get involved with an automaker in some capacity, but did not elaborate. He said he had not had a chance to look at GM's choice of Ed Whitacre as chairman for the new company, but said the industry needed to continue to look outside for new perspectives.
I think the auto industry is inbred, he said.
York pointed to Ford Motor Co (F.N) as a company that looked outside the auto industry successfully in choosing to hire Alan Mulally from Boeing Co (BA.N) in 2006 to serve as chief executive.
York was a persistent critic of GM during his board tenure, advocating brand cuts the automaker is now undergoing. During his presentation he said GM needed new blood.
Fundamentally, General Motors never got ahead of the curve over the last 10 years or so, York said.
The government's tenure as banker to the auto industry will depend on the pace of the economic recovery and the execution of the restructurings, York said.
York said Ford could survive on its own.
It is pure and simple a race between the cash they have on hand, their ability to raise at least some modicum of additional cash and the shape of the (economic) recovery curve, York said.
U.S. auto industry sales have fallen to the lowest levels since the early 1980s, and auto sales are down 36.5 percent for the first five months of 2009, but York said there were some encouraging signs amid the downturn.
I am sleeping much better now than I was four or five months ago, but I am not sleeping as well as I was a couple of years ago yet, York said.