|Crash and Burn
But more cash on hand
1. Skid Row
The milestones are just flying by at
(GM - Get Report)
On Thursday, the giant automaker posted its sixth straight quarterly loss. The Detroit company lost $323 million for its first quarter, including a $946 million deficit in its staggering North American operations.
Yet the quarter was
widely hailed as a success
, as GM lost less money than it did a year ago. The company also added to its cash position as the threat of a strike at supplier
looms despite recent progress there. GM stock, which had lost half its value over the last year, rose 10% Thursday on evidence of at least modest progress.
"The first quarter represented an important milestone in GM and GM North America's turnaround," said CEO Rick Wagoner. "Not only did we see significant improvement in the financial results of all our automotive units, we also announced numerous additional actions to improve our North American competitiveness and liquidity."
Of course, milestone achievements are nothing new at GM. Just two weeks ago the company agreed to
sell a controlling stake
in its only consistently profitable business, the GMAC lending arm, to investors led by Cerberus capital.
"This agreement is another important milestone in the turnaround of General Motors," Wagoner said April 3 in announcing that pact. Just in case you didn't get the point, presiding director George Fisher added two paragraphs later in the same release, "This transaction along with the other progress GM has been making on its turnaround plan, is an important milestone."
Yes, though the company continues to lose market share and struggle financially, milestones are zipping by with great regularity. Even 2005, when GM took a
stomach-churning $10 billion loss
, was a milestone year, to listen to Wagoner.
"We achieved a number of important milestones in 2005," he said of the company's Asia Pacific unit in January's fourth-quarter earnings release. "For the first time in our history, we sold more than 1 million vehicles in Asia Pacific, increasing our market share there to 5.8%. And importantly, in China, now the second-largest market behind the United States, GM became the leading foreign brand."
Yes, good work. Now if GM could only persuade more investors that it's not headed for one final milestone: a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
Dumb-o-Meter score: 91. "We think bankruptcy is really a bad idea," Wagoner told CNBC Thursday morning. "The answer is to put more results up like we did this quarter."
To view Colin Barr's video take on PortalPlayer's entry in Five Dumbest this week,