GM: Strikes will cost it $2B pretax in 2Q

General Motors' GM stock fell almost 5% Friday after the company reported that strikes at some of its own plants and parts supplier American Axle AXL will cost the automaker about $2 billion before taxes in the second quarter.

GM also expects to produce 230,000 fewer vehicles during the quarter due to the nearly three-month American Axle strike, which crippled its production of large sport-utility vehicles and pickups. The other strikes will cost it 33,000 vehicles.

"We anticipate only a portion of this lost production will be recovered, due to the current economic environment in the United States and to the market shift away from the types of vehicles that were impacted by the action at American Axle," GM said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

GM's shares fell 83 cents to close at $17.60, after touching $17.38 earlier in the session, their lowest level in nearly 26 years. The last time GM traded below $17.46 was Oct. 6, 1982, when it was at $17.32, according to the Center for Research in Security Prices at the University of Chicago.

GM said the American Axle strike was expected to have the biggest effect by far, costing it $1.8 billion in the second quarter before taxes. GM previously said it lost $800 million in the first quarter and produced 100,000 fewer vehicles in that period because of the American Axle strike.

Detroit-based GM also said in Friday's filing that it put in $215 million to help settle the American Axle strike. GM earlier had said that it had agreed to provide Detroit-based American Axle and Manufacturing Holdings up to $200 million to help fund buyouts, early retirements and buydowns to help end the strike.

Without the strike at American Axle, GM likely would have had to cut production of SUVs and pickups to keep its supply in line with demand, said Michael Robinet, vice president of global forecast services for CSM Worldwide, an auto industry consulting company based in Northville.

"Nobody wants to take a strike," Robinet said, "but it certainly had a lesser effect than if it had happened a few years ago."

High gas prices and a slow economy have reduced demand for trucks and SUVs. Erich Merkle, vice president of industry forecasting for the consulting company IRN in Grand Rapids, Mich., said GM now must focus on selling more cars and crossover vehicles, since truck and SUV sales don't appear likely to rebound. He said the effect of gas prices will weigh on GM and other automakers this year.

"Gas prices are a big issue right now," he said. "I've been studying the market for 10 years. This is the first time I've ever admitted to that."

At GM's plants, strikes over finalizing local UAW agreements were expected to cost the automaker about $200 million before taxes in the second quarter, resulting in the loss of about 33,000 vehicles in the period.

Those facilities include the Fairfax assembly plant in Kansas City, Kan., where GM said production resumed Thursday, and the Delta Township plant near Lansing, Mich., where production resumed Monday. The Fairfax plant makes the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu as well as the Saturn Aura. The Delta Township plant makes the Buick Enclave, Saturn Outlook and GMC Acadia, which are popular crossovers.

"We plan to recover the lost production due to the impact of the local strikes over the remainder of this year," GM said in the filing.

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