The Package

It came today – something that I have been waiting for…and dreading.  The details of my early buyout package.  Just right before Christmas.  What timing…

So after nine years of hard work, it comes down to a decision of sticking with a company that has a questionable future, or taking the money and running.  I hate to quit, but at the same time, I’m not confident that there is anything to stay for.  And leaving has its own risks as well.

For those of you unfamiliar with Michigan, the state is running around a 9% unemployment rate as of November.  This is going to make it harder to find a new job.  I have my resumes out there for the past few weeks, but there is nothing there I want.  I have been in contact with one company, but there is absolutely nothing definite because of the situation with the Big 3.  Very disturbing, to say the least.

I’ve also been scanning the on-line financial journals, and what they have to say about Chrysler is not positive.  They are stating that the $4 Billion loan will tide the company over until March, and after that is a question mark.  The rest of the money is earmarked for GM, leaving nothing for Chrysler unless Obama directs more money their way.  And I’m not positive that will happen.

Additionally, according to a couple of the journals, Cerberus is actively looking for a buyer or buyers to purchase Chrysler whole or in parts – Cerberus doesn’t care anymore as they want out of the car business yesterday.  The purchase and subsequent demise of their investment has hurt their reputation, and they want to be rid of the white elephant as soon as possible.  And this could mean anything from a Chapter 11 to a Chapter 7 if an extension is needed but not given in March.

Which does nothing to reassure anyone – employees, potential customers, or suppliers.  Or me…

At least one person, Always on Watch, stated in a comment to a previous post to take the package.  My wife is leaning in the same direction.  I’m 75% there as well, but dammit, I just don’t want to walk away. :cry:

But the alternative is to stick it out, get laid off, collect unemployment and sub-pay for 48 weeks, and still have nothing.  Or worse, go down with the ship and really have nothing.  It’s a choice from Hell – damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

I’ve got a lot of sleepless nights ahead…

Dear Pet Owners…

Found this over at The Average American.  Thought this was much better than the rant I almost wrote for today…


Dear CATS & DOGS:

The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish. Nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn’t help, because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king- sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years – canine or feline attendance is not required.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat’s butt. I cannot stress this enough!

To pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don’t .
2. If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That’s why they call it ‘fur’niture.
3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, they are an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn’t speak clearly.

Remember: Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:

1. Eat less.
2. Don’t ask for money all the time.
3. Are easier to train.
4. Normally come when called.
5. Never ask to drive the car.
6. Don’t hang out with drug-using friends.
7. Don’t smoke or drink.
8. Don’t have to buy the latest fashions.
9. Don’t want to wear your clothes.
10. Don’t need a gazillion dollars for college, and…
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children!

Fallout!

Yes, fallout!  Now there’s a couple of current subjects that this could address…

First is snow!  Yes, snow has fallen in places that snow normally doesn’t.  First, it was New Orleans, now Southern California and Las Vegas is getting dumped on with the white stuff.  Where is Algore’s Global Warming mantra?

Next is the apparent fallout of the automotive loans.  First, a bridge loan from the House, then it died in the Senate.  Then the President states that time is of the essense, and now after a week’s delay from that implied promise, more study is needed.  In the meantime, plants are closing down, GM halts construction on the engine plant for the much vaunted Volt, and time is running out.  Is anyone going to be able to come back from Christmas vacation?

While the automakers have themselves to blame for the current situation, our politicians deserve their fair share of the blame.  While I’ve chronicled much of the blame in current articles, what is now important is the problem before us.

There is a guest opinion in The Oakland Press that follows that states my thoughts in a fairly straightforward manner.

GOP senators’ actions almost treasonous

What about subsidies given to foreign manufacturers to locate there? Doesn’t foreign support detrimental to the American auto industry have the flavor of treason?

Strong words? No stronger than would be the cry for “HELP” if suppliers, dealers and other companies that depend on American auto companies go down.

Decades ago, another General Motors president, “Engine Charley” Wilson said, what was good for GM was good for the U.S. However arrogant that might have been, the opposite is also true. Down with GM would go one of 10 U.S. manufacturing jobs, plus three more service jobs. Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow testified before a Senate Committee that “Midwesterners make and grow things.”

Paraphrasing Spiro Agnew, there is an effete Eastern culture favoring the financial industry and paper pushers, i.e. “service.”

Ross Perot’s “great sucking sound” of American dollars leaving for foreign banks is now accompanied by the roar of the tornado that picks up Dorothy’s factory in Kansas and drops it in a Chinese wonderland.

Off-shoring guts Kansas and American productivity. More economic stimulus checks will not do it either. Most would go to Wal-Mart and then to China.

We all saw it coming. Whatever benefits the UAW wanted it got, and then management too. Pay whether working or no, the best health care in the world, generous retirement packages, all seemed too good to be true. It was. It all went into the price of a car, which foreign competitors soon found they could make better and sell for less. But Michigan did wake up and corrective measures were soon underway.

So what to do now? Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a bad idea. The entangled legal process alone would sound the death knell. Who would buy a car from a company in bankruptcy?

However, given that bankruptcy itself is a legislative process, a Congressional solution was underway until the Senate killed it. Debt was to be cut and other measures put in place for the long-term survival of U.S. auto companies. But the U.A.W. wouldn’t agree to “a date certain” to make wage cuts.

Long ago Japan and many European companies recognized that to retain their vital industries, they needed to make them “champions.” They gave them support similar to that we give to U.S. farmers. It’s high time we make champions of our auto industry.

Try again Senators. This time consider tariffs on imported foreign cars and tax incentives to “buy American.” It might indeed be as good for the U.S. as it is for General Motors.

I think that says it all…

Bridge (Loan) to Nowhere

Last night, Republicans in the Senate killed the bridge loan to the automotive industry.  The main reason that was given was that the UAW refused to concede on lowering wages to the same levels as the foreign transplant automakers.  Let’s just take a deep breath and look at this closely.

A couple of the sticking points that Congress has with the UAW is wages, benefits, and the jobs bank.  In the last contract, the UAW membership voted to freeze their wages for the duration of the contract, and reduced the length that a person could remain in the jobs bank from an indefinite period of time to two years.  In public statements, the UAW is pledging to dismantle the jobs bank, so now wages & benefits are left.

At msnbc.com, the following reported the cost differences between GM and Toyota workers:

Hourly wages for UAW workers at GM factories are about equal to those paid by Toyota Motor Corp. at its older U.S. factories, according to the companies. GM says the average UAW laborer makes $29.78 per hour, while Toyota says it pays about $30 per hour. But the unionized factories have far higher benefit costs.

GM says its total hourly labor costs are now $69, including wages, pensions and health care for active workers, plus the pension and health care costs of more than 432,000 retirees and spouses. Toyota says its total costs are around $48. The Japanese automaker has far fewer retirees and its pension and health care benefits are not as rich as those paid to UAW workers.

So the reality is that it is not the wages that are the problem, it’s the benefits and the larger number of retirees.  So what does Congress really want?  For all the retirees to drop dead immediately and no benefits for anyone?

I have a few thoughts:

First, while the politicians browbeat the CEOs into taking $1 yearly salary and no bonuses.  That’s OK in many respects, but after the multimillions they have received in the past, they can afford it.  But little or no mention has been made about the vice-presidents, senior & junior executives, managers, and other non-Union personnel taking wage and benefit cuts.  If the pain is to be shared equally throughout the companies, why haven’t we heard more about these people being forced to take the cuts?  Why is the UAW worker the target?

Second, if wages are cut across the board, how many people will be unable to pay their bills?  How many more loans will go into default?  Where is cutting anyone’s wage going to benefit the country?

Third is that I’ve have heard that the politicians don’t want to micro-manage the companies.  Isn’t trying to force the UAW to concede multiple points doing just that?  It does make me wonder if the politicians are trying to break the Unions…

And if this is truly the case, the politicians, who are mostly lawyers without any business experience, have just effectively cut the throats of 3 million gainfully employed taxpayers (many non-Union) without too much of a second thought just to break the UAW.  And now they are ready to leave town to spend the holidays with their families, leaving yet another mess needing to be cleaned up by someone.

Last is the thought is why must the UAW pay for the short-sightedness of the management of the auto companies?  The reality is that management sets the goals of the company’s direction and product, and the worker builds it.  When management screws up, they are ushered out with their golden parachute, and the worker is ushered out with a pink slip & an unemployment check that won’t cover groceries for the month (which is why the SUB pay and job bank exists to begin with).

I understand that the Democrats are urging the outgoing President Bush to tap the $700 Billion Wall Street slush fund to loan to the automakers.  I hope he does, because I fear that there will not be three domestic automakers in business by March 2009 if he doesn’t

7 Myths of the Auto Industry

Hat tip to CUG for finding this one.  Must have been shoveling too much snow & taking care of the wife to miss this one…


7 myths about Detroit automakers

BY MARK PHELAN • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • December 5, 2008

The debate over aid to the Detroit-based automakers is awash with half-truths and misrepresentations that are endlessly repeated by everyone from members of Congress to journalists. Here are seven myths about the companies and their vehicles, and the reality in each case.

Myth No. 1: Nobody buys their vehicles
Reality: General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC sold 8.5 million vehicles in the United States last year and millions more around the world. GM outsold Toyota by about 1.2 million vehicles in the United States last year and holds a U.S. lead over Toyota of nearly 700,000 so far this year. Globally, GM in 2007 remained the world’s largest automaker, selling 9,369,524 vehicles worldwide — about 3,000 more than Toyota.

Ford outsold Honda by about 850,000 and Nissan by more than 1.3 million vehicles in the United States last year.
Chrysler sold more vehicles here than Nissan and Hyundai combined in 2007 and so far this year.

Myth No. 2: They build unreliable junk
Reality: The creaky, leaky vehicles of the 1980s and ’90s are long gone. Consumer Reports recently found that “Ford’s reliability is now on par with good Japanese automakers.”

The independent J.D. Power Initial Quality Study scored Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Ford, GMC, Mercury, Pontiac and Lincoln brands’ overall quality as high as or higher than that of Acura, Audi, BMW, Honda, Nissan, Scion, Volkswagen and Volvo.

J.D. Power rated the Chevrolet Malibu the highest-quality midsize sedan. Both the Malibu and Ford Fusion scored better than the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Myth No. 3: They build gas-guzzlers
Reality: All of the Detroit Three build midsize sedans that the Environmental Protection Agency rates at 29-33 miles per gallon on the highway.

The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Malibu gets 33 m.p.g. on the highway, 2 m.p.g. better than the best Honda Accord. The most fuel-efficient Ford Focus has the same highway fuel economy ratings as the most efficient Toyota Corolla. The most fuel-efficient Chevrolet Cobalt has the same city fuel economy and better highway fuel economy than the most efficient non-hybrid Honda Civic.

A recent study by Edmunds.com found that the Chevrolet Aveo subcompact is the least expensive car to buy and operate.

Myth No. 4: They already got a $25-billion bailout
Reality: None of that money has been lent out and may not be for more than a year. In addition, it can, by law, be used only to invest in future vehicles and technology, so it has no effect on the shortage of operating cash the companies face because of the economic slowdown that’s killing them now.

Myth No. 5: GM, Ford and Chrysler are idiots for investing in pickups and SUVs
Reality: The domestics’ lineup has been truck-heavy, but Toyota, Nissan, Mercedes-Benz and BMW have spent billions of dollars on pickups and SUVs because trucks are a large and historically profitable part of the auto industry.

The most fuel-efficient full-size pickups from GM, Ford and Chrysler all have higher EPA fuel-economy ratings than Toyota and Nissan’s full-size pickups.

Myth No. 6: They don’t build hybrids
Reality: The Detroit Three got into the hybrid business late, but Ford and GM each now offers more hybrid models than Honda or Nissan, with several more due to hit the road in early 2009.

Myth No. 7: Their union workers are lazy and overpaid
Reality: Chrysler tied Toyota as the most productive automaker in North America this year, according to the Harbour Report on manufacturing, which measures the amount of work done per employee. Eight of the 10 most productive vehicle assembly plants in North America belong to Chrysler, Ford or GM.

The oft-cited $70-an-hour wage and benefit figure for UAW workers inaccurately adds benefits that millions of retirees get to the pay of current workers, but divides the total only by current employees.

That’s like assuming you get your parents’ retirement and Social Security benefits in addition to your own income.

Hourly pay for assembly line workers tops out around $28; benefits add about $14. New hires at the Detroit Three get $14 an hour. There’s no pension or health care when they retire, but benefits raise their total hourly compensation to $29 while they’re working. UAW wages are now comparable with Toyota workers, according to a Free Press analysis.