GM's accelerated bankruptcy ends: Was it long enough?

As GM exited bankruptcy today, the nation's largest automaker -- once the world's largest -- beat its rival Chrysler by two days. The lingering question is whether GM's fast-paced turnaround took long enough.

In forty days, the company has, allegedly, transformed itself from a lumbering twentieth-century behemoth into a sleek, competitive company for the new millennium. It has shed 4,000 white-color jobs, including 450 of its top executives, streamlining its bureaucratic structure.

At the same time, it has transferred many of its underperforming assets -- and its product liability lawsuits -- to "Old GM," a government-controlled company that will be sold off piecemeal to cover part of the automaker's debts. Old GM will, presumably, contain the Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer and Saab lines.

"New GM" has emerged with no debts and $50 billion in loans from the government. The government owns 61 percent of it, and 17.5 percent is held by the United Auto Workers Union, 11.7 percent is owned by Canada, and 9.8 percent is owned by the old company's bondholders.

Of course, even the most radical transformation is relative. New GM is still gargantuan, employing 88,000 workers in the U.S. and 235,000 worldwide. The company's model lineup is expected to stay the same for the time being, although it allegedly plans to unveil newer, more efficient models.

Part of the new GM rebranding may be a new name or a new logo. Some analysts have predicted that the company will change its signature color logo from blue to green, to reflect a new, environmentally sound, perspective.

Regardless of whether the company's transformation stops at a new logo color or extends to a substantive change in the kinds of cars that it produces, it is clear that GM intends to take this opportunity to significantly change its game plan. According to the company, the leaner GM will be able to remain profitable even if car sales stay at their current anemic level.

It will be interesting to see if GM can finally offer a compelling alternative to its overseas rivals, or if this transformation will simply be another case of different name, same model.

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