Detroit (TheStreet) --- As Mary Barra prepares, two months into her job as GM (GM - Get Report) CEO, to face two days of Congressional inquiry into the automaker's ignition switch recall, she has the support of Wall Street.
In late morning trading on Monday, GM shares were trading down 40 cents at $34.33. Shares are down about 4% since the automaker announced on Feb. 7 that it would recall about 800,000 cars. The news has gradually gotten worse, with more recalls as well as suggestions that the company ignored dangers that it knew existed. The recalls now total 5 million.
GM was a political football long before the recall issue surfaced. While many in the auto industry, as well as many supporters of President Obama, have applauded the bailout and government-orchestrated bankruptcy that saved the company, others -- led by former presidential candidate Mitt Romney -- have condemned it.
Barra will likely confront political opponents this week. She testifies before the House Energy and Commerce Committee at 2 p.m. EDT Tuesday and before the Senate Commerce Committee at 10 a.m. Wednesday.Barra's testimony "will hopefully be a positive step toward restoring GM's public image," UBS analyst Colin Langan wrote in a note issued Monday. Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said Monday that Barra needs to convince Congress that GM has changed, especially in light of evidence that GM knew about the ignition switch problem a decade ago. "GM's new CEO has shown a consistent willingness to cooperate with government officials while portraying GM as a changed company that won't repeat the mistakes of the past," Brauer said, in a prepared statement. "This is a good approach, and one that's supported by a genuine shift in corporate policy ... If she can convince Congress of these changes it will go a long way in resolving this issue." (TM) unintended acceleration case, he wrote, share price underperformance "was concentrated around an eight-day period after the floor mat and sticking pedal recall announcements were made" in January 2010. During the period, Toyota underperformed the market by 14%, but the impact was largely gone by June.
"This newfound discipline after years of matching foes' offers or leading the way in discounting may give investors reassurance that the Detroit-based automaker has learned important lessons of its 2009 bankruptcy," Bloomberg reported. "GM's gross margins in the first quarter may increase more than 20% while Ford's may fall by almost 18%." S&P Capital IQ analyst Efraim Levy has a strong buy on GM. He upgraded the shares on March 8. In an interview, Levy said he is looking past the recall's impact. "A lot of work is being done at GM to improve profitability," he said. "Launch costs will pressure margins, but they should reap benefits from new launches and from European restructuring in 2015. "You have to drive the slushy highway of 2014 to get to clearer sailing in 2015," he said. -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.
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