2011 Chevy Volt  (Source: Chevrolet in the News)

2011 Chevrolet Aveo (spy shot)  (Source: Motor Trend)

2012 Vauxhall/Opel Ampera  (Source: Best Electric Cars)
New "momentum" is improving GM's financial outlook, company says

Since 2004, GM has lost an incredible $88B USD as the company slid from viability downwards into financial ruin.  On June 1 GM finally went bankrupt and the government took over, appointing Fritz Henderson as the company's new Chief Executive Officer and Ed Whitacre, the former CEO and chairman of AT&T Inc., to lead the board.  With over $50B USD sunk into bailing out the automaker, the government took a controlling 61 percent stake in return and volunteered to try to turn around the struggling giant.

Now out of bankruptcy, a leaner GM -- free of many of its stale assets (Hummer, Saab, Saturn) -- is cheered by news of improving auto sales.  States Chairman Whitacre, "It's conceivable we could pay back some of the loans before the end of the year.  We have some momentum now; there's a lot of enthusiasm.  We're all cautiously optimistic. The board is fully behind Fritz; he's working hard."

GM could seek to repay the government with a new public stock offering.  Those previously holding GM stock saw their remaining holdings vanish with the bankruptcy.

Skepticism of a GM stock offering would likely be high in the financial community, despite emerging optimism on the markets.  However, GM's new look leadership is used to dealing with such doubts.  At an August 3 meeting of GM's board and the U.S. Treasury Department, the Treasury officials reportedly estimated new CEO Fritz Henderson's chances of turning around GM to be 40 to 60 percent.

The government suggested that GM's over-reliance on insider executive management led to a lack of accountability and a lack of urgency.  They suggested bringing in more outsiders.  While Whitacre says that GM isn't rushing to bring new blood onboard, he indicates that the company is slowly bringing on outside talent.  And though he does not say it, he, himself is proof of this effort. 

GM's outlook for the near term is looking slightly more optimistic, with auto sales in October rising for the first time since January 2008.  The company's marketshare also showed signs of life, capturing 20 percent of the market.  Describes Whitacre, "One month does not a trend make, but were hopeful about November.  We're pleased, but it's still pretty slow going out there."

Questions remain for the automaker, though.  It hasn't set specific marketshare goals and doesn't want to add extra incentives, leading to an uncertain picture of the company's direction.  Still, Whitacre says that the company is looking at various ways to improve sales, "We are just looking at ways to sell more vehicles, and it's a very competitive market. We need to strike a balance."

Many would be pleased to see GM be taken off the hands of taxpayers and return to being a publicly held company.  At this point, though, it's unclear whether Whitacre's remarks are indeed a roadmap of what lies ahead for GM or merely unrealistic optimism.  It won't be long, though, before we find out which they are.

"It's okay. The scenarios aren't that clear. But it's good looking. [Steve Jobs] does good design, and [the iPad] is absolutely a good example of that." -- Bill Gates on the Apple iPad

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