Alfred P. Sloan, the legendary CEO of General Motors Corp. (GM) from 1934 to 1956, envisioned GM as a company that would offer a car for every income level, thus keeping customers in the GM fold as they climbed the ladder of American success from their entry level jobs to their peak earnings years. Starting out, a customer would buy a Chevrolet and then keep buying bigger intermediate cars -- e.g., Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks -- before reaching the summit -- Cadillac.
The new GM won't sell you those intermediate cars -- it will get you at the bottom (Chevrolet) and the top (Cadillac) and offer you nothing in between. Through something called a Section 363 bankruptcy, GM will sell its most valuable assets -- Chevy and Cadillac -- to a new government-funded company. The rest of GM -- Buick, Pontiac, Hummer, etc. -- will be left in the old GM. The proceeds from selling the good assets will help pay claims like GM's $27 billion in unsecured debt and its $20 billion in union pension liabilities.