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GM Making New Plans Under Reorganization

June 2, 2009 at 6:15 PM EDT
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JIM LEHRER: Jeffrey Brown has our G.M. story.

JEFFREY BROWN: No surprise, perhaps, but one day after filing for bankruptcy protection, General Motors announced today that its U.S. sales in May fell 30 percent from a year ago. The good news: May sales were actually up from April.

Chrysler, which is in the midst of bankruptcy, saw its sales fall by almost half, but announced late today that the majority of its plants will resume production by the end of this month.

Both companies are hoping to emerge from Chapter 11 as leaner and more streamlined firms. To that end, G.M. will sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese group, and the company says that Saturn, the mid-sized car line, has more than a dozen offers.

NARRATOR: Let’s be completely honest. No company wants to go through this.

JEFFREY BROWN: G.M. even has a new ad campaign to go with its humbling present and hoped-for future.

NARRATOR: So here’s what the new G.M. is going to be: fewer, stronger brands; fewer, stronger models. This is not about going out of business. This is about getting down to business.

JEFFREY BROWN: But getting down to business will involve painful decisions, thousands of layoffs, and many lives changed.

BRENDA STUMBO, Supervisor, Ypsilanti Township, Michigan: I almost got sick to my stomach and actually wanted to cry.

JEFFREY BROWN: Brenda Stumbo is supervisor of Ypsilanti township west of Detroit. The town will lose its G.M. plant, one of six new closures in Michigan.

BRENDA STUMBO: I don’t know who made the decision, but it wasn’t the right one. It wasn’t right for the workers. It wasn’t right for our community. And it’s not right for our state.

JEFFREY BROWN: In all, G.M. will close nine plants and idle three others. Up to 21,000 workers will be without jobs. That’s in addition to the thousands of jobs lost when the many plants closed before bankruptcy.

At the same time, there’s word that the G.M. plant in Janesville, Wisconsin, closed last year, might reopen to make smaller cars. Signaling the political and economic stakes involved, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle gave his pitch.

GOV. JAMES DOYLE (D), Wisconsin: This is a plant that has been at the very top production — one of the top producers for G.M. for a long time, an incredibly good workforce, a great facility, great infrastructure around it.

JEFFREY BROWN: In a nod to the high stakes, the Obama administration has sent a battery of cabinet secretaries and officials throughout the Midwest this week to explain the administration’s actions and what comes next.