GM Finds Creative New Ways To "Stuff Channels", Get Backdoor Taxpayer Bailouts

Tyler Durden's picture

Zero Hedge readers know that we have long followed channel stuffing trends at GM, whose month-end dealer inventory hit a record (for the post-reorg company which is completely different from the pre-bankruptcy entity) of 713K cars stuck in various dealer "channels" at the end of March 2012, and since then has been stagnant at just about 700K, with the most recent June number coming at 701K, an increase of 6K over May. It would be great to assume that the company has given up on cheap ways to cheat investors and the taxpaying public into believing it is doing better. It would also be wrong. As it turns out, GM has merely turned to more backdoor methods of stuffing channels, and getting money from its biggest shareholders, which still happens to be Joe Sixpack (and "superpriority" labor unions of course) by way of the US Treasury, with 32% of the common stock.

The NLPC explains:

It looks like General Motors will be throwing everything in but the kitchen sink to help fluff its second quarter earnings numbers. Taxpayers continue to help with the cause as President Obama campaigns on the "success" of GM following the manipulated bankruptcy process that cost taxpayers $50 billion and another $45 billion of tax credits gifted to GM to help protect powerful UAW interests. We now learn that government purchases of GM vehicles rose a whopping 79% in June.

As a reminder, this is how GM's general channel stuffing looked like for all its vehicles:

However there is a rather important data subset here:

According to a Bloomberg report, "GM said inventory of its full-size pickups, which will be refreshed next year, climbed to 238,194 at the end of June, a 135 days supply, up from 116 days at the end of May." 135 days supply is huge, the accepted norm is a 60 day supply. The trick here is that GM records revenue when vehicles go into dealership inventories, not when actually sold to consumers.

This is how pickup truck channel stuffing looked in the period that the company has released the data, or since December 2011. Not pretty.

And while we all know by now that the tried and true mechanism to channel stuff is a staple when it comes to fooling the buyside as to its business efficacy, the fact that its biggest shareholder has become a key marginal client of GM should make one's head spin at the Ponziness of the transaction:

The government's increased spending on GM vehicle purchases presents yet another conflict of interest as Treasury refuses to sell taxpayers' stake in GM and Obama campaigns on the auto bailouts. It does not appear that any members of Congress (from either party) are questioning the increased spending. Also ignored was the Department of Energy's gifting of $2.7 million of taxpayer money to GM to reduce energy consumption in its door manufacturing process by 50%. The DOE seems to be one of the main conduits to funnel taxpayer funds to cronies of the Administration. The $2.7 million contribution to GM comes after additional millions of dollars were spent by the DOE on advisory fees paid to legal firms that helped smooth the way for the GM bankruptcy process (as reported here); another move that went unquestioned.

And there is more:

GM claimed that sales increases did not rely on incentive spending, which appeared to remain in check, but one analyst during GM's sales conference call questioned whether the company's "stair step" incentive spending was accurately depicted. This incentive spending kicks in after dealerships report final sales figures for the month and may be yet another deceptive way for GM to fudge its numbers. Not mentioned was GM card rewards programs that do not get counted as incentive spending.

Why is GM forced to succumb to such increasingly more deceptive practices? Why simple presidential election politics of course: when a failed company like GM is destined to symbolize the "success" of one's administration, there aren't many straws one can latch on to.

The upcoming earnings announcement by GM is, politically, the most important to date. The pressure is on Government Motors to appear financially strong as this may be the last earnings report before November elections and sets the stage for how "successful" GM is. One of GM's past tricks to help fudge earnings numbers has been to stuff truck inventory channels. Old habits die hard at GM. 

 

The article goes on to quote Kelley Blue Book's Alec Gutierrez who stated "They're (GM) likely going to have a relatively high days supply of trucks moving forward and they're already placing some pretty aggressive cash incentives on the hood. It's going to eat into their profit margins..."

 

GM's earnings announcement comes on August 2nd. The main headwinds will be weak European operations and growing pension liabilities. The headline number for earnings should be viewed skeptically and an eye kept on the share price reaction after the conference call. Expect Government Motors to put a positive spin on its financial health as the stakes are now at their highest. The long-term health of GM remains in question and the true financial picture may not surface until well after voters decide who will be running our country. Eventually we will see just how successful GM really is.

At the end of the day, all of this is noise. If China retaliates in kind to the recen escalation by Obama vis-a-vis alleged Chinese deceptive trade practices, the GM will soon be able to kiss half of its top line, and who knows how much of its margin and bottom line goodbye. Because when half of your sales go to the one country which America's non-existent (and unionized) manufacturing base loves to hate, the last thing you want is to bite the hand the pays the bills. Yet this is precisely what is going on as the politics of this country become so misguided that in the pursuit of a few extra votes, the administration is willing to sacrifice what little clout and momentum the recently bankrupted automaker may have generated.

In the meantime, looks for channel stuffing and direct government purchases to soar to unseen levels in the weeks and months heading into the presidential election as GM (and its 40% stock price drop since the IPO) will certainly be a key debate point between the Democrats and the GOP.