GM to put French factory, Hummer brand up for sale

— -- General Motors GM says it will put not only its Hummer SUV brand, but also a state-of-the-art transmission plant in Strasbourg, France, on the block as part of an effort to raise $4 billion.

German automaker Daimler, meantime, says it is talking to Chrysler majority owner Cerberus Capital Management about selling Daimler's 19.9% stake in the company it formerly owned.

The moves are part of the troubled auto industry's realignment as companies try to trim costs, reorganize business operations and prepare for what's expected to be a grim year or two.

GM Treasurer Walter Borst, in materials prepared for delivery Wednesday at a Deutsche Bank Leveraged Finance Conference and posted on GM's website, says GM will seek buyers for Hummer and the French factory next month. He says the two assets are worth $2 billion to $4 billion.

Borst's presentation also says GM will announce additional asset sales in the fourth quarter.

The U.S. is the chief market for the fuel-thirsty Hummer SUVs, and U.S. Hummer sales this year are down 46% through August vs. the same period a year ago, according to Autodata.

The city of Strasbourg's official list of local industries says 90% of the components that GM builds there are exported. The European auto market — once a reliable golden goose — is softening as economies worldwide begin to sag.

Chrysler executives told Chrysler dealers in a presentation Tuesday that the company has lost $400 million so far this year. As a private company, Chrysler isn't required to report publicly its earnings or losses.

Cerberus said it approached Daimler about a possible deal that it the 19.9% of Chrysler that Cerberus doesn't already own. Owning 100% would make it easier, for example, for Cerberus to sell the company later, once it has improved the automaker's results.

If the transaction is successful, "all existing industrial relationships between Daimler and Chrysler would continue," the companies said, but neither would say more.

Cerberus bought 80.1% of Chrysler from Daimler in August 2007 in a $7.4 billion deal. The sale ended Daimler's stormy nine-year ownership of Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler, though the companies have continued to share diesel-engine and other technology.

"I can see why Daimler would want to exit," says Mark Warnsman, auto analyst with Calyon Securities. "The only reason I could think that Cerberus would want more exposure (to the weak U.S. car market) is they're getting a very attractive price."

Contributing: Wire reports.