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GM 'confident' on govt loan terms

2008-12-22 08:58

Detroit - US automaker General Motors Corp said on Friday it was confident it could meet the conditions attached to emergency loans from the Bush administration to help turn the company around, but acknowledged there was plenty of work to be done.

"We know we have a lot of work in front of us to accomplish this plan," chief executive Rick Wagoner said at a press conference at the company's Detroit headquarters as the city was battered by a winter snow storm.

"It's our intention to be transparent as we execute our plan and we will provide regular updates on our progress."

After thanking the US government for providing the loans, GM executives said they expected to receive the emergency funding by the end of December and that the loan would be consistent with its cash needs through March.

Wagoner responded with an emphatic, "Absolutely not", when asked if it was time for him to step down as head of the number one US automaker.

GM and Chrysler LLC, which is owned by private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, have said they are in desperate need of emergency cash. Ford Motor Co, the other member of Detroit's "Big Three", has said it does not need a loan at this time.

President George W. Bush announced $17.4 billion in emergency loans for the US automakers on Friday, conditioned upon the companies proving their viability by March 31 or else the loans would be called back.

GM's CEO said the company would need to discuss changes with its unionised workers, but he stressed that GM has always had good relations with its unions, including the United Auto Workers.

"But we don't want to underestimate the efforts that will be needed on all sides to make this happen," Wagoner said.

GM executives said at the press conference that the company was evaluating options for its Saturn brand. It is also in discussions with interested parties for the sale of its Hummer brand. They said GM would likely have an announcement on that in the first quarter.

Asked if the loans would rekindle merger talks between GM and number 3 US automaker Chrysler, Wagoner said, "Our focus now turns to fully and rapidly implementing the restructuring plan that we reviewed with Congress earlier this month in conjunction with all of our key partners."

Wagoner said talk that GM could seek bankruptcy protection had been a cause for concern, and was reflected in the company's showrooms. But he said he was hopeful that consumers would respond to the automaker's restructuring plans.

"We have to expect it will be tough for a while given the economic environment," Wagoner said.

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