Chevy drivers pray GM doesn't fold
One day after General Motors announced that it may have to file for bankruptcy to stay in business, Chevrolet drivers voiced their support for the troubled manufacturer at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
They also uniformly expressed their belief that GM -- and by extension the Chevrolet brand -- will not only survive its current financial problems, but eventually emerge from them stronger than ever.
"I think the biggest thing is that we've got to get people to not be afraid to start spending money again. That's the only way the economy is going to recover -- to get people confident that they can start spending money again," said Tony Stewart, who doubles as a driver and owner at Stewart-Haas Racing, which fields his No. 14 Chevy and the No. 39 Chevy driven by Ryan Newman.
|Tony Stewart switched from the mighty and financially stable Toyota cars (probably because his teammate Kyle Busch was eating his lunch week in and week out) just in time for Chevy to fold. When they do fold, it will have dire consequences for all the Chevy teams|
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images for NASCAR|
"The good news is that GM is doing its part with Chevy brands. They're building cars that are affordable and efficient. From the manufacturer's side, that's all you can ask for. I think they've really responded and done a good job in that aspect."
Stewart's assessment of GM was echoed by Kevin Harvick, who drives the No. 29 Chevy for Richard Childress Racing.
"General Motors is a very strong brand," Harvick said. "Obviously, they are going through tough times, but they are in a wonderful restructuring process right now. They're putting their company back on its feet. I think when the economy turns, they're going to be as good as they have ever been going forward.
"We're all here to support them. It's a huge company. It's a very strong company -- and I think they'll be as strong as they've ever been when all this turns in the right direction, as with thousands and thousands of other companies that have restructured and made themselves more efficient."
Shares of GM hit a low of $1.27 late Friday morning -- the lowest share price for the company's stock in more than 75 years. General Motors said in a statement Friday that has not changed its intention to avoid a bankruptcy filing, and that an out-of-court restructuring remains its best option to survive the worst auto sales climate in at least 27 years.
The Detroit automaker lost $30.9 billion last year, and is surviving on $13.4 billion in U.S. government loans it already has received. While it is seeking up to $30 billion from U.S. lawmakers, GM also is hoping to get help from other countries. The automaker's Adam Opel AG subsidiary has said it wants to secure at least $3.8 billion in aid from the government of Germany.
That is what worries Jeff Burton the most. The driver of the No. 31 Chevy for RCR said Friday that GM's financial woes merely reflect that of the greater ills plaguing the entire country.
"Obviously, my biggest concern is that if the overall economy doesn't allow people to go look at vehicles and purchase them -- because that impacts us in a great many ways, just as it impacts General Motors in a great many ways," Burton said.
Burton insisted that if only Americans will give the Chevy brand a chance, they will like what they see. But he readily admitted that isn't going to matter if the bigger picture of the ailing economy doesn't improve first.
"In my opinion, with Chevrolet in particular, if we can get people to go sit in 'em and drive 'em, they're going to buy 'em. They've made huge improvements," Burton said.
"My big concern as it relates to Chevrolet is freeing up credit, giving people the security they want if they want to buy a car, that they have a job and they can do it. The real key is what's the overall economy? Chevrolet has shown for years that they're very committed to racing, and that's not going to go away. But if the economy doesn't get jump-started, if credit doesn't get freed up, if people feel insecure about their jobs or don't have one, not only Chevrolet but a lot of manufacturers of all kinds of products are going to have a difficult time. I'm much more concerned about that." More at NASCAR.com
"As a prudent business measure, the company has analyzed various bankruptcy scenarios," GM said in its statement. "However, the company firmly believes an in-court restructuring would carry with it tremendous costs and risks, the most significant being a dramatic deterioration of revenue due to lost sales."