5 Winners and Losers of the Week: GM, Pandora, Tesla, Netflix and Walmart

Signage for General Motors Co. (GM) is displayed at the Renaissance Center, the global headquarters of GM in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Thursday, June 6, 2013. General Motors Co., aiming to increase customer loyalty, announced it will expand its free scheduled maintenance program to most 2014 Chevrolet, Buick and GMC vehicles in the U.S. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Companies can make brilliant moves, but there are also times when things don't work out quite as planned. From an electric car maker winning an eye-opening safety rating to a streaming company backtracking on a controversial usage cap again, here's a rundown of the week's smartest moves and biggest blunders in the business world.

General Motors (GM) -- Winner
The country's leading automaker has been bouncing back with strong sales in recent quarters, but it's always been a few steps behind some of its more consumer tech-savvy rivals in assessing smartphone integration with its dashboards.

Well, GM is hoping to make up for lost ground by becoming the first car manufacturer to team up with Powermat Technologies to start offering wireless charging mats for smartphones in cars.

This is a pretty big deal, especially as drivers rely on their phones more and more for everything from streaming entertainment to telematics. This kind of data slurping also bleeds smartphone batteries. Now drivers will have an easier way to charge their phones on the open road than fumbling for USB or electric chargers.

Pandora Media (P) -- Blunder
Caps aren't a good look on Pandora. The leading music-streaming service revealed Thursday that it will be eliminating the 40-hour monthly cap that it applies to mobile freeloaders.

Getting rid of the cap is probably a smart move. Pandora went through this two years ago, eventually realizing that it was losing listeners as it tried to get them to pay up.

The same thing was starting to happen now as growth was slowing considerably. The average number of hours streamed by the typical listener has been declining since the cap kicked in, and the end result is that Pandora's share of the overall radio listening market has suffered.

Tesla Motors (TSLA) -- Winner
You won't find too many stocks as hot as Tesla this year, and apparently the car is even hotter.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration awarded Tesla's Model S with a spectacular overall vehicle safety score. It's the agency's highest score to date, making Tesla's costly sedan the safest car in the country. (See related video below.)

Naturally that won't be enough to make the electric car the driving choice of the masses when you start at more than $70,000 before a federal tax credit. It will take a few years before Tesla rolls out the more accessibly priced cars for mainstream consumers. However, there are people out there that value safety at any cost, and that's why this safety rating should drum up more sales for the Tesla Model S sedan.

Walmart Stores (WMT) -- Blunder
After surprising investors with a decline in same-store sales earlier this month, Walmart knows that it will have to try harder to win back shoppers.

This week Walmart revealed that it will be beefing up its layaway plans by expanding it to include more products and eliminating the $5 that customers pay to initiate the layaway program.

It's easy to question the merits of layaway. Why prepay for a product over the span of two to three months? Isn't it easier to just stash money away under a pillow? Well, it's never that easy for the consumers that resort to layaway.

However, Walmart makes the blunder list this week because even as Walmart is promoting that it's doing away with the $5 initiation fee, it's also tacking on a $10 cancellation fee that wasn't there last holiday season.

Netflix (NFLX) -- Winner
Showtime currently has the exclusive rights to movies put out by Weinstein's TWC and Dimension Films studios during the pay TV window that begins shortly after a theatrical release is available on DVD or pay-per-view. That will change come 2016, as Netflix has just locked up exclusive streaming rights to the movies that the studios will put out starting that year.

These are interesting times in the pay TV industry, as consumers are finally having a say in the content that they actually want to pay for.

Netflix may have been an unlikely leader in this revolution. Just a few years ago it was merely mailing out DVDs and Blu-ray discs to movie buffs. However, Netflix has embraced streaming to be the disruptor instead of the disrupted.

It's paying off again this week with another content deal.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of Netflix. The Motley Fool recommends General Motors, Netflix, Pandora Media and Tesla Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Netflix and Tesla Motors.


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