General Motors Corporation has revealed it has reached a tentative deal to sell its Hummer brand to a privately held Chinese company, part of an effort to drop four unprofitable vehicle lines and leave bankruptcy as a leaner company.
GM, a day after filing for bankruptcy, said in a statement that it reached a memorandum of understanding with Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery Co for the sale. Tengzhong said it will retain Hummer’s senior management and operational team.
GM said Tengzhong will also enter into a long-term contract assembly and key component and material supply agreement with GM.
Under the deal, which is subject to regulatory review and is expected to be closed sometime after July, Tengzhong will assume Hummer’s existing dealer agreements.
Financial terms were still under discussion and will not be disclosed, GM said, but bankers have said Hummer could fetch about US$100 million in cash in addition to other commitments.
GM had expected Hummer to fetch more than $500 million when it went up for sale in June 2008.
US sales of Hummer were off by more than two-thirds during the first four months of the year.
GM is also seeking to sell its Saab and Saturn brands by the end of 2009 and plans to discontinue Pontiac by the end of 2010.
That would leave a smaller GM to be rebuilt around the Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick brands, which account for more than 80 per cent of current sales.
The deal marks the first time that a Chinese buyer has acquired a brand from one of the struggling US carmakers.
Chinese parts suppliers and automakers have shopped for US automotive assets, including those at also-bankrupt Chrysler LLC, but no deals have been completed despite the enormous pressure on US automakers in recent years to cut costs.
Based in the Chinese province of Sichuan, Tengzhong makes special-use vehicles, highway and bridge structural components, construction machinery, and energy facilities.
Tengzhong will expand into the premium off-road vehicle segment, according to the joint statement from it and GM.
Tengzhong’s website did not indicate whether the company has experience running plants overseas or of producing passenger vehicles of any kind.
Earlier GM had declined to identify the buyer but said it would contract to build the H3 model SUV and the H3T pickup truck at GM’s plant in Shreveport, Louisiana, at least until the end of next year.
In addition, GM said the investor would fund future vehicles for Hummer and invest in alternatives to the heavy gas-guzzling engines that are the hallmark of the brand.
In Shreveport, where 800 workers work on a single shift building Hummer H3 and H3T models, there was relief that a new buyer would keep the line running for at least a while longer.