Isuzu may buy GM truck business

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Isuzu may buy GM truck business

Automaker trying to unload Flint plant that builds medium vehicles, including the GMC TopKick and the Chevy Kodiak.

Robert Snell / The Detroit News

General Motors Corp. is negotiating with Isuzu Motors Ltd. to sell its medium-duty truck business, a move that would help the cash-strapped automaker raise money, cut costs and help ensure it complies with a $13.4 billion federal loan package.

The negotiations involve keeping the truck division in Flint through 2014, a local union official said Monday. That contrasts with an earlier failed agreement with Navistar International Corp., which would have relocated jobs to another factory.

"I think it’s great news," said Mark Hawkins, the chairman of UAW Local 598, who said the negotiations were disclosed in a letter from the UAW on Jan. 29.

About 525 hourly and salaried workers are employed on the medium-duty truck line in Flint, which produced 22,000 vehicles last year, GM spokesman Tony Sapienza said.

Trucks produced at the plant include the GMC TopKick and Chevrolet Kodiak.

GM did not directly address negotiations with Isuzu, with which the automaker already builds diesel engines in a joint venture.

"While GM is assessing various strategic options for the business, no decisions have been reached and there are no details to share at this time," GM said in a statement.

The medium-duty truck business has been hurt by near-record fuel prices last year and a downturn in the housing market, which relies on medium-duty trucks, specifically dump trucks, cargo carriers and other work trucks.

The business is one of several assets that GM has been trying to sell so it can cut costs and raise cash.

GM wants to raise $5 billion through asset sales, but questions about the company’s financial problems have hindered attempts to unload assets such as the Hummer brand and a transmission plant in Strasbourg, France.

The automaker almost ran out of cash in December before President George W. Bush approved a $13.4 billion loan package.

GM and Chrysler, which both got loans, must file the plans by Feb. 17 and show significant progress in becoming viable companies by March 31 or the U.S. Treasury Department could recall the loans.

Hawkins said he believes a deal with Isuzu could be announced close to the Feb. 17 date to illustrate the automaker’s attempts to streamline the company.

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