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GM Southeast Asia Seeks to Reassure Customers


The bankruptcy and restructuring of General Motors Corporation in the United States has raised concerns about the future of the global automaker. In Southeast Asia, General Motors is seeking to assure customers and investors the bankruptcy will not affect their operations. In this part of the world, the auto company says it is still planning for growth.

General Motors in Southeast Asia opened a packed news briefing in Bangkok with a promotional video.

The video shows G.M. trucks driving through explosions set to the classic song "Don't Stop Me Now" by the British band Queen. A G.M. public relations chief announced the song expressed the automaker's feelings about operations in the region as being there to stay.

Chapter 11

General Motors filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy Monday to protect itself from creditors while the heavily indebted corporation is restructured with the U.S. government owning the majority of new shares.

General Motors Southeast Asia Operations President Steve Carlisle said the restructuring only applied to the company's U.S. operations and its overseas units in Southeast Asia would not be directly affected.

"As I have mentioned before, we are separate entities from GMC and have the capability, resource, and technology to continue our operations and grow," Carlisle said. "A good example is G.M. Asia Pacific, which recorded unprecedented growth in the first quarter of this year, and all indications point to the continuation of this trend for the rest of 2009. We believe growth potential in this region to be tremendous once the economy recovers."

Sales down in some countries

Auto markets in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines are down 30 to 50 percent from last year and Carlisle says G.M. sales are in line with those drops and other market slumps in Southeast Asia. Although, G.M. sales were up in Indonesia by nearly 20 percent.

Carlisle said slowing demand is likely to close some car dealers in the region.

He said cutting costs is a big concern and acknowledged that a G.M. plant in Thailand had paused production for two weeks after a drop in consumer demand.

No layoffs

But he said no layoffs or closings are planned and G.M. production in Thailand would continue to expand.

"Previously we announced the diesel engine and the pick-up would start up in the middle of 2011. So, we are still on track according to that timeline," he said.

G.M. Southeast Asia Vice President for Sales Antonio Zara said sales in Thailand have been on the rise since March and the company's market share had returned to about the same as last year.

"And, despite all the negative coverage we are getting due to the G.M. news in the U.S., we are opening new show rooms, we are launching various campaigns to enhance customer services in after sales support," Zara said.

G.M. Southeast Asia President Carlisle said consumer sentiment was a challenge. He said the company is negotiating with Thai banks for loans to carry on production and marketing plans.

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