General Motors today took one more step toward what is increasingly looking like an inevitable bankruptcy when its chief financial officer declared that it did not plan on making a bond payment due to creditors on June 1. That’s also the date given by the Obama Administration to the troubled company to get its house in order or to declare bankruptcy. While GM made some hopeful noises about expecting to reach an agreement on a debt-for-equity exchange with creditors by that date, the CFO, Ray Young, was more blunt, calling a bankruptcy “probable,” and at one point referring to the point “when” GM emerges from bankruptcy.
A few months ago, this would have been shocking news. But today’s announcement caused barely a stir. The real question now is not whether there will be a bankruptcy, but to what extent the Obama Administration will try to direct the process, and control what kind of car company will emerge. Importantly, the Administration will likely continue the flow of federal funds during the process, giving it a big role. And the President continues to opine on how he thinks the firm should proceed. In a statement today, he stressed that GM and Chrysler must plan on building the fuel efficient “car of the future,” i.e. cars the Administration likes.
Emerging from bankruptcy may be the least of GM’s problems. Emerging from the control of politicians may be far more difficult.