Auto firms suffer globally

Auto industry gloom spanned the globe on Thursday.

General Motors said it will cut salaried jobs and benefits this year and put a parts unit on the block, Chrysler moved up a plant closing and Michigan legislators appealed for federal aid. Meanwhile, results from several foreign brands added to worries of a global slump.

"The global credit crisis has had a dramatic impact upon the industry," GM CEO Rick Wagoner said in a letter to employees about GM's latest actions.

The global pain is a sign a wave of consolidation and bankruptcies is sure to follow, says Richard D'Aveni, a professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "This is the straw that is breaking the camel's back for something that has been happening for the past 25 years."

Among developments:

•GM said it faces "an increasing need to conserve cash" and will lay off salaried and contract staff as it also cuts benefits, including 401(k) matching payments. GM will explore a sale of its ACDelco parts unit, in addition to Hummer and a plant in France.

•Chrysler, owned by Cerberus Capital Management, said it will close a Delaware SUV plant this year, a year earlier than planned, cutting 1,825 jobs.

•Michigan's congressional delegation appealed to Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to use financial bailout powers to buy troubled assets from auto finance arms to free money for auto loans. Rep. John Dingell also said automakers are mulling asking for access to the Federal Reserve discount window for low-cost credit.

•Daimler, German maker of Mercedes-Benz cars and the world's biggest truckmaker, lowered its expectations for the year.

"These are extraordinary and unprecedented times," Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche told investors during a call, citing hits to revenue and margins.

•Italy's Fiat said its global demand could drop 10% to 20% and profit could fall up to 65% in a "worst-case" scenario.

•France's Renault posted a 2.2% drop in third-quarter sales and declined to repeat 2009 guidance. Chief Operating Officer Patrick Pelata said cost-cutting would have the group positioned for a rebound in 2011 or 2012.

•South Korea's Hyundai and its Kia affiliate posted a 38% fall in third-quarter net and its outlook was gloomy. "The market situation in emerging countries is much worse than expected," said Park Dong-wook, a director at Hyundai's treasury division.

Contributing: Wire reports

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