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But over the past year or so, it's become clear that the company has turned the corner, and GM stock has not only lost the taint of a loser – more and more, it's taken on the shine of a winner.
You see, after GM was pushed to the brink and survived, it emerged leaner, meaner, and smarter.
Now GM is ready to drive into the future, propelled by the following six major "cylinders."
Cylinder No. 1: The U.S. Government No Longer Owns GM Stock
The politically controversial TARP program certainly helped keep General Motors afloat in its hour of need, but it tarnished the company's image and ultimately cost taxpayers $10.5 billion when the government recently sold its last shares of General Motors stock.
Whether TARP was a good idea will be up to historians, but the stigma of being tagged as "Government Motors" can now fade into history – and that's good for GM stock. With its public image on the mend, customers will be increasingly comfortable buying GM vehicles going forward.
Cylinder No. 2: Cutting Costs at General Motors
One major reason GM was able to leave governmental control behind was its ability to cut costs from top to bottom. For automakers, this is especially difficult and daunting because of all the moving pieces necessary to assemble a final product.
Yet GM was able to lower labor costs, reduce and refinance debt, and tackle and solve redundancies in the supply chain. Now, not all of these issues are completely in the rear view mirror, but they are part of a new atmosphere at General Motors.
GM has sought to tackle redundancies elsewhere as well.
GM owns German-based Opel, which has a strong following in the European market – albeit presently an abysmal European car market due to the struggling economies there.
GM's attempts to establish its Chevrolet brand in Europe have proven very costly and have met with little success, but part of that is because of the success of the Opel brand. Finally, this month, GM pulled Chevrolet from Europe to focus entirely on the Opel brand. That's the kind of tough decision making and improved focus that has helped return the company to profitability.
Other hard choices GM has made recently include the abandonment of vehicle and engine manufacturing in Australia and preliminary moves to engage in what it believes will be the next booming auto market – Indonesia.