General Motors to cut 70% of Singapore jobs

General Motors will stop selling Chevrolet vehicles in India, South Africa and East Africa. In the last two markets, GM is also selling its businesses, dealership and plant to Isuzu.
General Motors will stop selling Chevrolet vehicles in India, South Africa and East Africa. In the last two markets, GM is also selling its businesses, dealership and plant to Isuzu.PHOTO: REUTERS

About 130 employees here to be laid off as part of global efforts to save $139 million a year

In a case of history repeating itself, American auto giant General Motors is slashing its Singapore operations by 70 per cent, as part of a global initiative aimed at saving US$100 million (S$139 million) a year.

Staff at General Motors International - who occupy a whole floor at OUE Bayfront in Collyer Quay - were informed two weeks ago.

Of about 180 employees, some 130 - or about 70 per cent - will be laid off. According to insiders, they will leave in two batches - at the end of next month and the end of December.

As severance, GM is paying one month for each year of service, plus an ex-gratia payment of another month. Employees across the organisation are affected, including director of sales and business development Cheong Chee Sing and president Stefan Jacoby.

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Mr Cheong said he has been thinking about taking a break "for some time", "so this is timely".

"I'll take a break before planning my next phase in life," the GM veteran of 22 years said. "There's no hurry (to find another job)."

Mr Jacoby, whose job is expected to be downsized, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But in a press statement last week, he said GM is running its international markets "with an enterprise approach and making decisions that are best for the global business". The Singapore restructuring comes just three years after GM re-opened its regional headquarters here.

As a result of the downsizing, GM expects to realise annual savings of about US$100 million (S$139 million) and plans to take a charge of about US$500 million in the second quarter of this year.

It relocated to Shanghai in 2004, shortly after the Economic Development Board awarded it an operational HQ status.

In the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis, it even closed its distribution and logistics centre which it had operated here since 1972.

Over 100 jobs here were affected back then. In an interview shortly after re-establishing its presence in Singapore in August 2014, Mr Jacoby said: "The main difference is that we will have a much better grip of our markets... and we will raise the level of localisation."

The latest downsizing is part of GM's global efforts to, in the words of chief executive and chairman Mary Barra, establish the automaker "as a more focused and disciplined company".

It will stop selling Chevrolet vehicles in India, South Africa and East Africa. In the last two markets, GM is also selling its businesses, dealership and plant to Isuzu.

As a result of the downsizing, GM expects to realise annual savings of about US$100 million and plans to take a charge of about US$500 million in the second quarter of this year.

The charge will be treated as special and excluded from the company's results adjusted for Ebit (earnings before interest and tax).

About US$200 million of the special charge will be cash expenses, GM's press statement read.

In the last quarter of last year, GM said it planned to cut more than 3,000 jobs.

Last week, the Asian Wall Street Journal reported that Ford Motor was set to cut about 10 per cent - or 20,000 jobs - from its global operations as part of a plan to shave US$3 billion in cost this year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'General Motors to cut 70% of S'pore jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe