By now just about everybody in America has heard the story of General Motors' (NYSE:GM) bankruptcy and bailout -- it wasn't pretty, and it definitely happened in a very public light. Because it was so recent, GM's bankruptcy has many investors anxious about investing in the company, and that's fair. However, this is truly a different automaker than it was then.
General Motors stands today with less than $10 billion in automotive debt, compared to "old" GM's nearly $40 billion on the books at the end of 2007. Furthermore, GM's global pension plan is currently underfunded by about $18 billion, which is a far cry from the near $50 billion obligation it had at the end of 2007.
Let's take a look at two ways GM has truly evolved from its poorly run predecessor.
Looking to the future
Today GM is much more financially healthy, but it's also a much more forward-looking company in terms of business strategy. Consider that a decade or more ago, GM executives scoffed at the idea of needing higher-quality and fuel-efficient vehicles, because SUVs were selling so well. That turned out to be a nearsighted strategy that heavily contributed to the "old" GM's ultimate downfall.
Now, though, GM's strategy is anything but nearsighted. Earlier this month, GM announced several product strategies, which included alternative transportation initiatives.
One of those strategies is car sharing. GM announced two new car- and ride-sharing projects: one in New York City, which is currently available to residents of The Ritz Plaza, and a second to launch early in 2016 in another major U.S. city. Another small strategy is an eBike concept that is designed to help people stay mobile in an increasingly urban and difficult-to-navigate setting. Even further into the future is GM's confirmed collaboration with Honda to jointly develop commercially viable fuel-cell technologies by around 2020, according to GM.
It's great that GM is no longer the nearsighted company it once was, but these moves represent more than just a change in strategy -- they're expected to generate additional revenue and profits down the line. Moreover, GM's strategies are also aimed across the globe.
Looking around the world
Global strategies have changed significantly in recent years for Detroit automakers. At one point in time, automakers such as General Motors and its crosstown rival Ford made vehicles designed for one region and one region alone. That thinking has gone by the wayside. Now major automakers are rolling out vehicles with global ambitions. It's been a very profitable move for the automakers, and GM even recently announced a plan to better target opportunities in emerging markets.
GM believes that despite a challenging environment at the moment, a significant amount of the automotive industry's growth between 2015 and 2030 will come outside of mature markets, and that its $5 billion investment to create an all-new Chevrolet-branded vehicle family will ensure long-term profitable growth.
"Vehicles will be manufactured and sold in several markets including Brazil, China, India and Mexico, and exported for sale to other important growth markets. ... The program is expected to grow to more than 2 million vehicles annually with the first entry planned for the 2019 model year," according to a recent General Motors' press release.
Narrowing in on India, a market that will continue to grow in importance for GM, the automaker is expected to launch 10 new and locally produced Chevrolet models within five years; those vehicles include the Trailblazer SUV and the Spin MPV. GM plans to double its base production capacity in the country by 2025, which will enable the region to become a global export hub for GM, with more than 30% of its production aimed for markets outside of India.
It's clear GM is a far different, and better, company than it was a decade ago. While the company still has a long road ahead of it in terms of fully gaining back the public's trust, investors looking into the automotive industry for solid stocks should give GM a second look.