General Motors' marriage to the U.S. government was sealed Friday, and although the assets being sold out of bankruptcy court will create a "New GM," a lot will stay the same.
It will have the same headquarters and many of the same top executives. GM's logo remains a blue square with silver letters — although a change to green is on the table, to reflect a new environmental focus.
"Today marks the beginning of what will be a new company, a New GM, dedicated to building the very best cars and trucks, highly fuel-efficient, world-class quality, green technology development, and with truly outstanding design," CEO Frederick "Fritz" Henderson said as GM filed for Chapter 11 June 1. And he was the CEO at the podium Friday for the New GM.
The company will hold the best assets of Old GM. The orphans (from closed plants to a golf course) stay in bankruptcy court for liquidation. A judge's order blessing the split took effect Thursday with no appeals headed to stop it.
New GM goes forward with fewer brands and government owners full of opinions, but also no debts and a vow to make money on every vehicle. Industry watchers call it GM's best — and only — chance to become profitable or fail for good.
GM's debt "was like a noose around its neck," says David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research. "It's going to be easier for them to put a lot more into their cars and trucks than before."
"Its debt load is gone, and a lot of costs are going to be drastically reduced," says Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics. "That's the basis of making a company profitable."
Critics say New GM's biggest task will be remaking its bureaucratic culture to move faster and be more innovative. Others say a lot of that work has been done.
All agree they must get people to forget a numbing nine months of bad news and start buying their cars again.
Here's USA TODAY's look at some of the things that will be different about the New GM — and some that will remain the same:
Different: Most of the board
GM starts off as a new company with at least seven new faces among the 13 directors. The new chairman of the board will be former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre, who was successful at turning one of the smallest regional Bells into a telecom giant. Stephen Girsky, a longtime auto analyst, has been chosen by the United Auto Workers union to sit on the board. Five remain to be named.
They replace six directors who will resign and restructuring expert Kent Kresa, acting chairman since March. Kresa will remain with the Old GM in bankruptcy court and oversee the liquidation of those assets.
Same: Some board members, most top lieutenants
Six old board members will make the transition to the new board, and most of New GM's top staff have been with Old GM for decades. That includes Henderson, a Detroit native who joined GM in 1984 as a financial analyst. Top jobs also filled by incumbents, at least for now: the chief financial officer; the head of sales, service and marketing; and the heads of manufacturing and labor relations.
Although many of the faces are the same, some argue they were leading a revolution in Old GM to get people to work faster with less bureaucracy and develop products in tune with what consumers really want. That, too, would carry forward to the new company — and should.