FEATURE-Detritus of old GM hits auction block ahead of IPO

* Sale of equipment abandoned in GM bankruptcy rolls on

* Bidders from India, Mexico and UAE scour truck plant

By Deepa Seetharaman

PONTIAC, Mich., Nov 5 (BestGrowthStock) – Among the abandoned robots
and industrial equipment strewn about a cavernous truck assembly
plant here, Tom Dilworth mused about what brought General Motors
Co [GM.UL] to its knees last year.

“What we have here,” Dilworth, 58, concluded, “is a failure
to compete.”

As a restructured General Motors races ahead with its
landmark initial public offering, it has taken pains to tell
investors that it is a leaner, more nimble company able to edge
out rivals in the global auto industry. [ID:nN04208683]

But this week’s auction at a now-closed GM assembly plant
in Pontiac served as a reminder of the company’s old shell,
when it was laden with debt and untenable costs that took GM
from U.S. industrial powerhouse to ward of the state.

The plant in Pontiac was among the 15 manufacturing plants
closed during the Chapter 11 proceedings and transferred to Motors
Liquidation Co (MTLQQ.PK: ) — dubbed “old GM.”

Old GM was cobbled together from assets discarded by GM as it
went through its government-funded bankruptcy, and over the past
year it has been gearing up for a sell-off that represents the
largest industrial garage sale of all time.

One by one, the relics of the GM truck plant in Pontiac —
everything from three neon Chevy signs to c-clamps — were
auctioned off to resellers, car enthusiasts and suppliers
hoping to snag industrial equipment for a pittance.

The auction on Thursday drew about 500 participants. About
half of the bidders followed the action on the Internet.

Larry Heilman, manager of Eclipse Acquisition and Supply
International, was scouring the sale — his third auction this
week — for hydraulic pumps and motors to resell.

Dilworth, an engineer at GM’s Warren plant, coveted a pink
granite plate that went for $250. The real worth, Dilworth said,
was probably around $1,500.

GM engineer Greg Fee, who was attending his first auction,
marveled at prices for some of the parts given the higher
prices GM had paid for such equipment in his career.

“Trust me, I spent a lot more money,” Fee, 47, said.

In a warehouse set off from the plant, Dilworth’s friend
Brad Siemen, 54, climbed over boxes to examine some hose. He
considered bidding on a treadmill.

The treadmill had been part of the plant’s gym mandated by
part of a contract with the United Auto Workers union that
critics say contributed to GM’s demise and forced the company
to take a $50 billion bailout.

“The government saved our bacon,” Dilworth said. “The whole
company would be like this if it wasn’t for them.”

The Pontiac plant, which built GMC Sierra and Chevrolet
Silverado full-sized pick-up trucks, had employed some 1,100
people when it closed in October 2009. The plant is 21 miles from
General Motors’ downtown Detroit headquarters.

Now potential bidders — mostly men — in jeans, flannel
shirts and worn-in boots walked through the plant examining
once-pricey welding equipment and car lifts. They gulped soda and
munched on salty chips, a bag for 50 cents.

Maynards and Hilco Industrial LLC ran the auction. The
event drew bidders online from around the world including Mexico,
United Arab Emirates and India, said Hilco President Robert Levy.

Thursday’s auction took place in the brick-walled lobby of
the assembly plant, which has the air of being simply abandoned
one night.

An earplug dispenser on the wall is still half-full. The
message boards bear a 2007 letter warning hourly workers not to
punch out too early. Signs in the plant warn passersby of
nearby trucks, using six exclamation marks.

“If you think of something in its prime, it was quite the
factory,” said William Slaughter, a project manager with
Strategic Construction Solutions, who attended the auction.

“This is just flat-out heartbreaking,” Dilworth said.
“There’s no other word for it.”

The remains of a GM stamping plant near Grand Rapids,
Michigan go up for auction next week.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

FEATURE-Detritus of old GM hits auction block ahead of IPO