Sunday, May 03, 2009

Chrysler bankruptcy, good; liquidation better

I'm glad Chrysler made it into bankruptcy court so that the creditors will get some protection from the law instead of having to rely on politics and executive fiat (pun intended). I must admit I was disgusted with President Obama's remarks about the _secured_ creditors unwillingness to share the "sacrifices" that other "stakeholders" were making.

Under the law the secured creditors are the first ones who should get any payout before any one else takes money out of the company. To steal their money is one thing; to use the prestige and power of the presidency to demonize them for asking for what is theirs under the law is something else. I hate to see such unfairness and I hate to see the presidency demeaned in an attempt to disguise base theft. We didn't elect Blagojevich president, I hope.

So, what's happening here and why do I say liquidation would be better? The government is trying to keep the UAW firmly in control of Chrysler so they can continue the UAW brokered auto monopoly that has enriched union leaders, auto executives, politicians and various hangers on for many years. The expense of it has been borne by car consumers who today pay hundreds of dollars more per car compared to what a competitive market would produce and get less innovation than a competitive U.S. market would produce. As Blagojevich would say, I've got this f'en Auto Industry and its f'en golden.

Having a domestic monopoly to keep it comfortable and powerful labor unions to keep it poor, the industry has fallen far behind and to keep paying millions to the union executives, lawyers, auto executives, and politicians taxpayers are going to have to start kicking in. The stockholders and unsecured creditors have been sucked dry. That leaves the taxpayers paying Billions in tax dollars to prop up the monstrosity known as the U.S. auto industry.

So, how would a Chrysler liquidation help? Chrysler has valuable assets:
The Jeep Brand
A very extensive dealer network
Other brands
Technology, in particular truck and SUV technology
Global Electric Motor cars producing neighborhood electric vehicles
Factories, parts inventory, car inventory, etc.

In a liquidation foreign auto makers could bid for those assets. Most importantly, they would bid for those assets unencumbered by UAW contracts or obligations and existing dealer obligations. I could imagine Hyundai/Kia greatly improving its dealer networks and taking advantage of the Jeep brand globally for 3 or 4 Billion dollars. How about India's Mahindra and Mahindra or Tata or a Chinese company? Any one of these companies building cars, trucks and SUV's in this country without the UAW would force GM and Ford to really compete, force the UAW to be reasonable and business like in its contracts and deliver value and innovation to the consumer. They would also build more cars here than a UAW controlled Chrysler ever will. With the UAW Chrysler is worthless and will only exist as long as taxpayers will continue feeding it.

And if I'm wrong and no one wants most of Chrysler? It's a couple million cars a year capacity out of an industry that is globally millions of cars overbuilt. It gives GM, Ford, and Toyota their best chance to prosper.

But it is the fear that the parts will be used by non-UAW car makers that keep politicians working overtime to keep Chrysler in the UAW fold. This effort was useful in showing how government control of the banks keeps them from pursuing their economic interests and gets them into line politically. The TARP banks wanted to accept the deal to keep Chrysler out of the hands of a bankruptcy judge who should apply the law and protect creditors. They didn't want the ire of this administration. I've got this f'en bank thing and its f'en golden.

I hope this bankruptcy judge is very courageous and applies the law. I hope foreign automakers and other entrepreneurs have the courage to make offers to the court for Chrysler's assets in liquidation. Obama's little rant was designed to show that people who get in the way of UAW sanctioned reorganization by taxpayer cash infusion and fiat will earn the administration's anger. Welcome to industrial policy Chicago style.

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