New GM may lean on Latin America lessons
Jul 09--For all its miscues at home, General Motors Corp. has built a powerhouse operation in Latin America, where its fuel-efficient vehicles could play a crucial role in returning the battered company to health.
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Since it filed for bankruptcy last month, the automaker has been striking deals to shed much of its operations, including its Hummer, Saturn and Saab brands and its Opel division in Europe. GM is shuttering more North American factories, laying off workers and slashing its U.S. dealership ranks.
But despite rumors this spring, GM's thriving Latin America operations probably will escape the ax, analysts said.
The region is an important, low-cost manufacturing platform for the U.S. market. And among Latin American consumers, GM remains a respected brand with the highest market share -- 21 percent -- of any carmaker, said Guido Vildozo, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight in Waltham, Mass. While GM's U.S. sales declined 23 percent last year, they were up 3 percent in Latin America, and thanks to some timely government support, this year's sales are on track to match 2008's.
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