Bob Lutz started the process in 2001 when he joined GM as product czar, Cole says. Lutz put product designers back in charge of creating vehicles, rather than having final decisions made by the finance side. He put focus on design and interior quality, and the vehicles have shown steady improvement in independent studies since, Cole says.
"The old culture has been dead for a long time; that's one of the things Bob Lutz was pursuing with a vengeance," Cole says. "The speed of product development and the things they have been doing show it's a very, very different company than it was a few years ago."
Lutz, 77, was to retire at the end of this year, but now will stay on in a role to be revealed Friday, said a source who knows of the plan, but would not be identified because he was not authorized to speak before the announcement. Henderson says GM will have far fewer managers in the future, however, and many are gone already.
"People have been rolling out of the company, and they haven't been replaced," says Hall, of 2953 Analytics. But as tempting as it may be to stock New GM with new blood, Hall says they need to rely on the folks they have. "They need people who know the business. It's not time to bring in someone that has to learn the car business. The market will not tolerate that. If you were in a relatively healthy market, you might have time. But not now."
Different: Slimmer, but more impressive lineup of cars and trucks
GM's new products hitting the market this year, such as the 2010 Chevy Camaro, were under development several years by Old GM. Even new models in the next two or three years, like the Chevy Volt and Cruze, began development under Old GM. So for some time to come, GM cars and trucks will not be solely products of New GM.
But New GM will have far fewer vehicles in its lineup as it finishes shedding the Saturn, Hummer, Saab and Pontiac brands. It will be able to put more muscle into the quality and marketing of its slimmer lineup of current and new products. The existing Chevy Malibu and Cadillac CTS and new 2010 Chevy Equinox and BuickLaCrosse are all getting good reviews from critics.
"They have some outstanding products, some of the best products in the industry," says Peter De Lorenzo, editor of AutoExtremist.com. "People just don't know."
Same: Relying on trucks, muscle cars
GM has been criticized for failing to project that gas prices would go up, and relying too heavily on trucks and SUVs for profits. Although that is changing, for now New GM will have to rely heavily on muscle cars, like the Camaro, and crossovers —car-based SUVs, which get better fuel economy but are still large and not as fuel efficient as smaller cars.
Although the Camaro gets good fuel economy — the V-6 is rated at 29 miles per gallon on the highway vs. the rival Ford Mustang's 26 mpg — it's not the first car that leaps to mind when you think fuel economy.
GM's greatest promise for fuel efficiency is the electric Volt, due on the market in small numbers at the end of 2010. But saddled with expensive batteries, it is likely to be a money loser until new, cheaper technology and batteries come along.
Until then, GM still will rely for much of its profitability on crossovers and trucks.