What happened

Shares of General Motors (GM 0.87%) were rising on Thursday afternoon after rival Ford Motor Company (F 0.41%) cut its dividend and drew down its credit lines. Investors saw it as a sign of strength that GM didn't quickly follow Ford with a cuts of its own.  

As of 1:30 p.m. EDT, GM's shares were up about 7% from Wednesday's closing price.

So what

This is one of those times when investors seem to be flocking to the stock of a company that didn't follow the lead of a rival.

GM CEO Mary Barra stands in front of a General Motors press backfrop.

CEO Mary Barra isn't interested in following Ford's lead with a dividend cut -- yet. Image source: General Motors.

A day after both Ford and GM announced a temporary halt to production at their factories in North America, Ford said that it is borrowing $15.4 billion from its existing credit lines and suspending its dividend. Ford said that it is bolstering its balance sheet in order to continue future-product investments while it waits out the coronavirus pandemic.

Ford also withdrew its prior guidance to investors for 2020. 

GM, pointedly, didn't follow its old rival's lead. The company said in a statement that it is "dedicated to managing" its costs and will continue to monitor the situation closely. GM had $17.3 billion in cash and another $17.3 billion in available credit lines as of Dec. 31, its last update.

To sum it up: GM didn't cut its dividend and it didn't withdraw its guidance for the year, and that was enough to give investors a reason to buy its beaten-up shares.

Now what

Auto investors should be a bit careful here: Just because GM didn't cut its dividend this morning doesn't mean it won't. Yes, GM had plenty of cash as of its end-of-year update -- but Ford had even more. It's entirely possible that GM will cut its dividend tomorrow, or next week, or next month. 

On the other hand, it's also possible that GM -- which has a much larger business presence in China than Ford -- is encouraged by the apparent speed of the recovery there and confident that it can weather the storm in the U.S. without drastic action.