Ford-GM Merger/Alliance Talks: Bigger is Not Necessarily Better

by Jennifer Kolton October 6 2006, 15:35
Automotive News recently reported that General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have discussed a possible merger or alliance.[1]  Neither company will comment on the talks [2], leading some followers to believe the reports are mere "speculation" and reflect "[n]ostalgia for the glory days of the American automobile industry."[3]  Nostalgia and speculation aside, the merger/alliance rumors are enough to incite the interests of industry followers and American car buyers as to the possible benefits of such a relationship.A merger would combine "two of the world's most recognized brands."[4]  The combined company would account for "an astounding 41 percent of the U.S. auto market."[5]  An alliance could force innovative thought and encourage novel business decisions, as it seems to some that "[t]he old school way of doing things at Ford and GM isn't working."[6]  If nothing else, a merger would combine name recognition and product lines.  However, the merger process would not be an easy ride for Ford and GM.The two auto giants would have to overcome significant hurdles to join forces.  For one, Ford and GM tout different management styles.[7]  Second, Ford and GM would have to lay aside their differences as competitors [8] and assume new roles as partners.  Third, assuming that Ford and GM can consolidate their competing products under one roof, they may face problems of brand loyalty [9] and may find themselves having to convince consumers who self-identify as a "Ford" or "GM" person that their former foe is now their friend.  Fourth, there would be little advantage to GM in the merger as the stronger company.[10]  Finally, the merged entity would face the task of defining which product lines and particular vehicles are worth saving and which do not benefit continuing operations.[11]While the possibility of a merger is intriguing in the sense that it could create an ultra-American automotive entity, the costs of such merger may outweigh the benefits.  Increased size would not necessarily bring success for Ford and GM, both of whom struggle with expensive non-operational plants, "thousands of union workers they have to pay even when they do not need them," and associated pension and salary costs.[12]  Additionally, a merger may not solve a key challenge facing both auto giants: building vehicles that consumers want to buy.[13]Rather than combine total operations to form the American automotive giant that is rumored to be, Ford and GM would be better off implementing an alliance in the form of partnerships [14] in smaller focused areas.  Such partnerships could improve vehicle design and production and benefit consumers in the market for an improved version of an American namesake.  One way Ford and GM could accomplish this objective is to co-develop "components that are not customer-centric, like car batteries."[15]  Although it would take significant time and testing to make work, Ford and GM could partner to create component parts that can be used in many if not all vehicles manufactured individually by the two companies.  While the average consumer may prefer his or her Ford F-150 pickup over GM’s Chevrolet Silverado, or vice-versa, the average consumer may not prefer either Ford or GM’s particular brand of batteries, brakes, spark plugs, shocks, springs, steering systems or vehicle frames.  Moreover, if Ford and GM were to combine component product operations, they could limit expenses by having less plants and workers than if the companies conducted base operations separately.  In essence, partnering to make component parts would solve at least part of the plant and employee expenses burdening each company while enabling both Ford and GM to continue manufacturing individual vehicle lines. Ford and GM could also research and develop jointly fuel-saving technologies.[16]  The companies could use their combined power to improve hybrid drive transmissions, fuel cell technology, flexible fuel vehicles, and clean diesel.[17]  This would be a win-win situation for both the American auto giants and consumers.  Given the increased costs commuting to work and shuttling kids to soccer practice, consumers want more fuel efficient vehicles.  If both Ford and GM developed fuel saving technologies, the companies could incorporate that technology into their respective product lines, build more attractive products, and capitalize on consumer interest, thereby increasing demand for such vehicles.  Again, by partnering on core aspects of vehicle operation and design, Ford and GM could derive mutual benefit yet still retain their unique product lines and customer brand loyalties. While a complete merger sounds provocative, at this point the talks cannot be referred to as more than unconfirmed speculation.  Even if Ford and GM confirm these rumors, a complete merger would not solve the present state of the respective companies’ problems.  Rather than combine underperforming product lines and enormous expenses, Ford and GM would be better off leaving their cars in separate parking lots rather than moving everything into one giant mess of a parking garage.  If Ford and GM combine forces in an alliance, that partnership should be aimed at promoting research and developing component parts that can be used in each company’s vehicles.  At the very least, consumers would benefit from having more advanced vehicles boasting improvements such as better fuel economy.  If Ford and GM collaborate on base components and technologies, each company could then incorporate the innovations into new models that would attract consumer interest and reinvigorate American automotive competition.     [1] Ford, GM Discussed Merger, Alliance - Report, ASSOCIATED PRESS, available athttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14889304/.[2] Id.[3] Sean Lengell, Speculation, Mostly Idle, of a Ford-GM Merger, WASH. TIMES, Sept. 19, 2006 available at http://washingtontimes.com/functions/print/php?StoryID=20060919-120553-2225r.[4] Dan Arnall, Indecent Proposal?  What a Ford/GM Merger Could Mean, ABC NEWS, at http://abcnews.go.com/Business/print?id=2459206.[5] Id.[6] Roland Jones, Ford, GM Could Score Gains by Collaborating, MSNBC.COM, at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14923545.[7] Lengell, supra note 3.[8] Id.[9] Id.[10] Id.[11] Arnall, supra note 4.[12] Id.[13] John W. Schoen, Ford, GM Race to Get Smaller, MSNBC.COM, athttp://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14939898/.[14] See Revised Uniform Partnership Act §202(a) (defining “partnership” as an “association of two or more persons to carry on as co-owners a business for profit”).[15] Jones, supra note 6.[16] Id.[17] Id.

The Online Movie Rental Battle

by Jeff Ostrom October 5 2006, 02:42
I. Introduction



Should the concept of movie rentals via the internet be protected by a patent? Netflix, Inc. seems to think so. That is what prompted them to sue Blockbuster, Inc. for infringing their patents by starting up Blockbuster Online. But Blockbuster thinks Netflix has invalid patents and that the monopolization of the online movie rental business would not be fair. These are the issues that recently came up in Netflix, Inc. v. Blockbuster, Inc. [1]. [More]

Confirmed test results: A new uphill battle for American cyclist Floyd Landis

by Kamran Chaudri October 2 2006, 19:14
I. Introduction



It goes by many different headlines: doping, steroids, performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). It is an issue that rears its head in competitive sports time and time again. A controversy has been building for years and is currently unfolding: allegations of a champion American cyclist having used PEDs during the Tour de France. But the American cyclist that the French accused for so long is retired, and his former teammate now sits opposed to the pointing finger of the cycling world. This time the cycling world has some evidence to support its claims. [1] This article analyzes the charges that the current Tour de France champion cyclist Floyd Landis faces and the course of appealing those charges. [More]

Tags:

Sports

Sports Stadiums: Do Franchises Really Need Public Financing to Build Their New Stadiums

by Sandeep Marreddy September 29 2006, 18:54
I. Introduction



Many people have spent a summer night or a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark or stadium watching their favorite teams. These stadiums are an integral part of a professional sports franchises operations. In recent years there has been a surge in new stadiums being built by teams as they take advantage of the willingness of cities to provide public financing. Since 2000 there have been 17 new stadiums built for National Football League and Major League Baseball teams. [1]. In addition, several teams are in discussions for the building of new stadiums in the next few years. [2]. [More]

Tags:

Sports | Tax

Where to Open a Business: Consideration of Living Wage Ordinances

by Patrick Clyder September 26 2006, 09:09
A company must keep three factors in mind when trying to decide where to open its doors, “location, location, [and] location.” [1]. Closely related to location, a company might consider traffic flow, highway access, and the presence of other businesses in the area. [2]. The applicable minimum wage is an unlikely consideration for a company that is in the process of selecting a location, but that may soon change. Federal law sets a minimum wage floor, but States can pass their own statutes raising the federal minimum wage. [3]. On the rise, however, is the presence of local ordinances that index minimum wage levels to cost of living increases or that target specific companies. [4]. This article will first briefly examine two such ordinances, one from Santa Fe and one from Chicago, and it will then set out options for companies wishing to do business in cities that have some form of a living wage ordinance. [More]

Tags:

Real Estate

Fun With The Tax Code: Changes Abound in 2006 Tax Year

by Sandeep Marreddy September 24 2006, 18:51
I. Introduction



They say that death and taxes are the two sure things in life. That may very well be the case, but taxes and tax law are ever changing. Rates are regularly moved up or down new taxes are added and certain taxes are eliminated. For the 2006 tax year, Congress made several changes that will have an impact on people as they get their financial records together and start preparing their taxes for the April deadline. Some of the changes that Congress made include; The Pension Protection Act, The Energy Tax Incentives Act and The Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act.[1]. The article focuses on whether changes to tax law will actually be beneficial to individual taxpayers. [More]

Tags:

Tax

Where Have You Gone Doogie Howser M.D.? A Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes To You. [1].

by Collin Delaney September 22 2006, 16:13
A brief examination of the fiduciary, ethical, and professional paradigm shifts experienced by the health-care provider following the September 11th terrorist attacks.


As our nation recently observed the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, one cannot help but reflect on the fundamental changes that have occurred since. Foreign and domestic policies have undergone watershed transitions, the effects of which are still being understood. Health-care in the United States, specifically the role of the health-care provider, is no exception.
Significant shifts have occurred and continue to occur in regard to how the government interacts, influences, and regulates health-care. New issues in medical ethics are now being vociferously debated. Even the day-to-day expectations of physicians and hospitals have seen marked change.
While certainly no one with any experience in health-care will classify the pre-September 11th period as simple, the inordinate complexity of health-care administration seems to be metastasizing at ever growing rates. Long gone are the Doogie days of introspectively typing one’s thoughts on the practice of medicine while basked in the green glow of a word processor. [More]

China Approves Citibank-led Consortium’s buy-into Guangdong Development Bank

by Mark Cassidy September 18 2006, 23:48
China’s approval of the Citibank consortium’s buy-into Guangdong Development Bank ends a year-and-a-half battle for control of the bank. [1] The Citigroup consortium, which includes China’s largest insurance company and one of China’s largest electricity distributors, offered approximately three billion dollars for an eighty five percent stake in Guangdong Bank. [2] The Citibank consortium beat out its closest rival a consortium led by France’s Societe Generale. [3] U.S. based, private investment firm, The Carlyle Group, pulled out of the bidding. [4] Despite a last minute attempt to get back into the race, Ping An Insurance's bid was hobbled when they tried to make large donations to the Guangdong provincial government a portion of their bid. [5] Despite their leadership position in the consortium, Citibank will only take a 19.9 percent stake in Guangdong Development Bank, as Chinese law currently forbid a single foreign bank from owning more than 20 percent of a Chinese bank. [6] Both Citibank and Societe Generale lobbied the Chinese government to make an exception to the limitations on foreign ownership of Chinese bank to no avail. [7] China’s entry into the World Trade Organization was conditioned in part on it opening its banking sector to foreign competition. [8] Nevertheless, China has been putting up obstacles to foreign banks that want to set up shop in China. [9] By allowing the Citibank led buy-in to go forward, China seems to be taking a somewhat less protectionist approach.  While Chinese companies will still be for the most part own Guangdong Development Bank, Citibank’s 19.9 percent share allows the bank to receive the benefits of being part of a large, well-financed, and experienced banking organization. [1] Citibank beats out Scoiete Genrale for China's Guangdong Development Bank, Todayonline.com, Sept. 13, 2006, http://www.todayonline.com/articles/14210.asp. [2] Id. [3] Id. [4] China cabinet backs Citibank-led plan to take over Guangdong Devt Bank – UPDATE, Forbes.com, Sept. 12, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/markets/feeds/afx/2006/09/12/afx3009761.html. [5] China’s Ping re-enters bidding for Guangdong Development Bank- source, Forbes.com, Sept. 5, 2006, http://www.forbes.com/business/feeds/afx/2006/09/05/afx2992079.html. [6] Citibank beats out Societe Generale for China’s Guangdong Development Bank, supra, note 1. [7] Id. [8] David Lague, China tries to limit access for foreign banks, iht.com, Sept. 5, 2006, http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/09/05/business/chibank.php. [9] Id.

Tax Mogul H&R Block Tempts Fate by Branching into the World of Everyday Banking

by Lucy Kalnes September 16 2006, 02:06
I. Introduction



Tax preparation giant H&R Block announced at the beginning of this month that in response to lawsuits brought by angered taxpayers about the company's Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) program, it will be revamping the program in an effort to reduce consumer cost as well as, presumably, it's own litigation costs.[1] But will the plan work? [More]

Tags:

Tax

Has the Bubble Burst? Economic Implications of a Buyer's Market

by Alicia Filter September 13 2006, 15:53
For the past several years, residential real estate has been a seller's market. With low interest rates and not enough houses to go around, sellers could expect to receive top dollar for their homes and could turn their homes around fairly quickly once they put their homes on the market. In early January, the National Association of Realtors projected that existing home sales would fall this year by 4.4%, but as of early September, that forecast has dramatically decreased, with existing home sales for 2006 projected to fall 7.6% below sales in 2005. [1] The market looks even worse for new home sales, with a 16% fall expected this year. [2] Indeed, it is a buyer's market, and if the bubble really has burst, the economic implications could be far-reaching. [More]

Tags:

Real Estate

Theme by Mads Kristensen

Invitation


We invite law professors, practitioners, and students to submit short articles for publication on this website. Simply email articles to the editors of the journal using the "Contact" form link above.   We also strongly encourage readers to post comments relating to a specific article or a topic covered by an article on the website. Just click on the "Comments" link located in the post footer below each article.

Recent Comments

Comment RSS

Disclaimer

This Journal is published by members of the Business Law Society at the University of Illinois College of Law. It is not a publication of the University of Illinois, and, therefore, the University of Illinois bears no responsibility for its content. Moreover, this Internet publication is prepared as an informational service only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Although every attempt is made to ensure the information is accurate and timely, the information is presented "as is" and without warranties, either express or implied.