Automaking Major Overhaul

Pounded by the recession and foreign rivals, GM will close 25 plants and lay off 74,000 workers. But will the bloodletting end there?

The Christmastime speech from the chairman of General Motors traditionally sounds like an address from a head of state. Small wonder: the company is so large (1990 revenues: nearly $127 billion) that if it were an independent nation, its economy would rank among the world's Top 20. By closed-circuit TV from GM headquarters in Detroit, this year's 45-minute broadcast reached 395,000 employees who stopped work and put down their tools in 130 factories across the U.S. But the message from chairman Robert Stempel was like no other in the 83-year history of the giant corporation.

As of Jan. 1, Stempel said,...

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