General Motors Re-Enters Medium-Duty Truck Business

CORRECTION: General Motors will sell trucks in a partnership with Japan's Isuzu in the U.S. An earlier version of the story was incorrect.

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- General Motors  (GM), rebuilding a global enterprise battered by its 2009 bankruptcy, said it will re-enter the medium-duty truck business next year in the U.S. in a partnership with Japan's Isuzu Motors (ISUZY).

 Isuzu is an important manufacturer of diesel engines, which could lead to cooperation on that front with GM, depending on fuel prices and changes in environmental regulation.

GM's move highlights the trend within auto manufacturing for alliances and joint ventures that fall short of full-scale mergers, undertaken to save capital on costly development projects and on technology investments. In recent weeks, Sergio Marchionne, CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCAU), has called for greater collaboration.

Marchionne approached GM to discuss possible business collaboration but was rebuffed by Mary Barra, GM's CEO. A GM spokesman explained that the automaker isn't averse to joining forces with other automakers - but isn't looking for a broader alliance or merger.

The U.S. market for medium-duty trucks, while much smaller than that for conventional pickups, had been a mainstay for GM until the automaker found itself paring operations to create a newly reorganized automaker under government supervision. The Chevrolet Kodiak and GMC Topkick were discontinued, along with the Saturn and other car brands.

The medium-duty truck business remains important to Ford (F) and Daimler, which dominate in the U.S., as well as to several foreign automakers.

The latest agreement also marks an expansion of GM's relationship with Isuzu. GM from the early 1970s owned a major stake in the maker of trucks and diesel engines but that relationship withered.

Shares in the newly reorganized GM have been flat since their initial public offering in 2010. Investors are cautious because GM has for several decades been a company that generates profit during economic expansion and then suffers steep losses in recessions. GM relies disproportionately on U.S. pickup truck sales for profit.

Over the past five years, Isuzu's ADRs have roughly tracked the U.S. equity market. Isuzu shares in that period rose 104.4%, while the S&P 500 rose 96.6%.

Isuzu shares rose after a Wall Street Journal report on the deal. They ended up 1.8% while the broader Tokyo market was flat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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