What's the Future for GM?

(FORTUNE Magazine) – To scuttle an alliance with Renault Nissan, GM's CEO Rick Wagoner persuaded his board of directors that he had a better plan. But he hasn't convinced Kirk Kerkorian, owner of 9.9% of GM's stock, who yanked his representative Jerry York from the board so that he could agitate from the outside.

1 What's GM doing to stave off bankruptcy? Wagoner has announced the closing of 12 plants, pushed 34,400 hourly workers off the payroll, slashed headcounts and benefits for salaried employees, and gotten a handle on pension and health-care costs. Wall Street responded by bumping the stock up about 50% in the past six months. But Wagoner still needs to fix GM's revenue problem.

2 What's that? GM has a tough time mar-keting cars people will buy without a bribe. Incentive spending in September was $700 per car less than a year ago, but market share fell 1.2%. To keep unsold cars from piling up, GM was forced to cut production by 20,000 units in the fourth quarter.

3 That sounds bad. It gets worse. GM is way too dependent on fuel-thirsty SUVs and pickups, which consumers are shunning in favor of lighter, more nimble crossover vehicles--a product segment pioneered by the Japanese.

4 So what's on Wagoner's to-do list? Close the sale of GMAC's 51% to Cerberus Capital Management. Get the parts-maker Delphi out of bankruptcy. And get ready for a proxy fight if Kerkorian comes after his allies on the board.