If General Motors Corp. were forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the company would end up being liquidated because a long bankruptcy would scare customers away, CEO Rick Wagoner said Tuesday.
Speaking at a breakfast in Washington, D.C., Wagoner said restructuring the company out of court would accomplish 99 percent of what could be achieved in bankruptcy, but without the risk of losing customers or the huge expense of Chapter 11.
Critics of GM and Chrysler, which have received $17.4 billion in government loans to stay alive and have requested a total of $39 billion, say the government should let them go into a short, prepackaged bankruptcy that would let them restructure debt and void costly labor contracts.
But at the breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, Wagoner said a 30- or 60-day prepackaged bankruptcy might not work.
"If it doesn't, you'd need in the end a long period of bankruptcy which I believe would result in liquidation of the company," he said, adding that GM research continues to show that customers would shy away from buying vehicles from companies in bankruptcy.
Wagoner also said Ford Motor Co.'s deal with the United Auto Workers to change the funding of a retiree health care trust fund will not work for GM. Ford and the union agreed that the company will make half of its payments to the fund in stock instead of cash.
"The Ford program does not meet our needs at all," Wagoner said on an audio recording of the event obtained by The Associated Press. "It's basically a par deal. It probably works for Ford. It doesn't work for us."
Wagoner said GM needs to do "something different" and is working with the UAW to make that happen.
Chrysler and GM each face a March 31 deadline to finish plans to show the government how they can become viable again and repay the government loans. The Obama administration has appointed an autos task force to decide what to do to save the Detroit auto industry.
GM has received $13.4 billion in federal loans and is seeking an additional $16.6 billion. Chrysler has received $4 billion and is seeking an additional $5 billion.