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Well, of course it can. There's bankruptcy, for starters.
But this morning's announcement that General Motors's 2005 loss will actually be $2 billion more than the $8.6 billion it reported in January robs GM management of what little credibility it still had left on Wall Street. Further adding to the air of despair surrounding the No. 1 U.S. automaker was the statement that it will also miss a deadline for filing its annual report.
There was once a time when what was good for GM was good for America, in the words of its former chairman Charlie Wilson. But, in a response that is perhaps telling as to how much (or how little) GM matters to the U.S. economy these days, the overall market shrugged off the news, with the Dow Jones industrial average rising about 27 points in the first hour of trading even as GM shares fell by more than 3 percent.
"Investors are going to wonder just what is going on at General Motors," Michigan State University business Prof. Eugene Jennings told Bloomberg.
GM CEO Rick Wagoner blamed the increased loss on charges related to supplier bankruptcies and additional employee costs. The company is in the midst of a massive cost-cutting campaign, and it's also seeking to offload its GMAC finance unit. A group led by Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts is offering up to $13 billion to buy a majority stake in the unit.
The automaker faces other pressures. The market has turned away from the big SUVs it builds, while Toyota has proved a formidable competitor across most of its product lines. Meanwhile, there is a threat of a walkout at bankrupt parts supplier Delphi, which could cripple GM.
In January, Wagoner called 2005 "one of the most difficult years in GM's history."
Given the way 2006 is starting out, he may be repeating himself next January.