Auto news in brief: U.S. task force to spur GM turnaround plan

Auto news in brief: U.S. task force to spur GM turnaround plan

U.S. task force to spur GM turnaround plan

President Barack Obama’s auto task force dispatched a team of 15 people to General Motors Corp. headquarters in Detroit on Wednesday to speed the turnaround plan announced earlier this month, an administration official said Wednesday.

The team is larger than the previous waves of staffers sent by the administration to work with GM officials. This vanguard will be led by task force staffer Harry Wilson, a former hedge fund executive, and include experts from the Boston Consulting Group and investment bank Rothschild.

Obama’s auto task force ruled last week that GM was not viable but could become so if it made faster and deeper cuts in its business plan over the next 60 days. The administration also ordered the ouster of former GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner and warned that bankruptcy was a strong possibility if GM couldn’t reach agreement with creditors and the UAW.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson told the Free Press last week that he expected task force staffers to work at GM’s offices through the deadline.

Chrysler supplier gets pay hike

A dispute between Chrysler and a parts maker that shut down two of its Canadian plants has a new wrinkle. An Ontario Superior Court judge said Tuesday that Chrysler will have to pay a higher price to buy parts from Transcast Precision.

But the decision is only temporary as Justice Alexandra Hoy makes a permanent decision about how much Chrysler should pay for those parts. The dispute arose last week after Transcast demanded a price increase and moved the tooling used to make parts for Chrysler, GM and other companies.

Chrysler calls talks productive

Chrysler LLC, under an April 30 deadline to cut debt and reach a new union accord or file for bankruptcy, is having productive talks with lenders and the UAW, President Jim Press said.

"There’s a dialogue; it’s productive and ongoing," Press said Wednesday in an interview at the New York International Auto Show without giving details on progress. "I’m optimistic."

The negotiations are pivotal to Chrysler’s survival under the timetable set March 30 by President Barack Obama. The third-largest U.S. automaker must erase most debt, pare labor costs and complete an alliance with Italy’s Fiat SpA within 22 days.

VW expects recovery by 2010

Volkswagen AG said the slumping U.S. auto market may not rebound until 2010 and may fall short of 10 million sales this year, less than two-thirds of the annual average for this decade.

"We may not see a recovery until the end of this year, or even into next year," Stefan Jacoby, president of the German firm’s North American division, said Wednesday in a speech at the New York International Auto Show.

Volkswagen is building a $1-billion assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., where it will produce an unspecified sedan. It will be the automaker’s only U.S. factory and is expected to be completed by 2011.

GM, Ford lawsuits advance

Lawsuits accusing companies including General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and IBM Corp. of aiding South Africa’s former apartheid regime were narrowed by a federal judge in New York.

U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin issued a 136-page ruling Wednesday that she said made the cases "much narrower" than they were when initially filed in 2002.

"It’s a signal that corporations can be held accountable for contributing to human-rights abuses abroad," Tyler Giannini, a Harvard Law School lecturer and lawyer for the plaintiffs, said of the decision. The South African plaintiffs sought billions of dollars in compensatory and punitive damages, saying that companies assisted South Africa "knowing that such assistance would lead directly to the violation of the human rights of black South Africans," according to one of their complaints.

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