Business

GM might dump brands

DETROIT — General Motors Corp. is reviewing its brands and may try to jettison some to raise money as it burns through cash at an alarming rate.

But industry analysts say buyer interest in the brands most likely to be sold, Buick, Hummer, Saab and Saturn, may be low because of a U.S. sales downturn brought on by high gasoline prices and a slow economy.

Also, analysts say, there are individual problems with some of GM's weaker nameplates.

GM, which has eight brands, said last month that it was reviewing Hummer for possible sale. The company on Monday denied that other nameplates are under review.

But a person familiar with GM's internal discussions says brands other than Hummer are being studied. The person wanted to remain anonymous because no decisions have been made.

GM, the person said, also is considering wider white-collar job cuts and bringing more small cars to the United States from elsewhere in the world to deal with the sales slump a huge market shift from trucks and sport utility vehicles to cars and crossovers.

David Healy, an auto analyst with Burnham Securities, said GM has enough money to make it through this year but may need more cash in 2009. The automaker, he said, has ways to raise money other than selling brands.

While Hummer is unique in terms of engineering and manufacturing and could be sold, other brands share vehicle underpinnings and manufacturing and are so integrated it would be tough to sever them, Healy said.

He questioned whether there would be any buyers in the midst of a U.S. economic downturn.

Hummer might be attractive to a Russian or India+n automaker for its U.S. dealership network, said Mark Warnsman, an analyst with Calyon Securities.

Saturn could be of interest to another automaker that doesn't have a mainstream brand, and a luxury automaker might have the expertise to revive Sweden's Saab, analysts said. Buick might be a tougher sell, they said.

Buick and Saturn continue to struggle despite having revamped model lineups and some of GM's best vehicles, said Tom Libby, senior director of industry analysis for J.D. Power and Associates.

Saturn, born in 1990 as GM's small-car answer to the Japanese automakers, was remade over the past three years with more upscale models, but sales this year are down nearly 19 percent.

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