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Chevrolet Turns 100 as Surgery Makes for Healthier Parent GM

DETROIT TheStreet) -- As Chevrolet celebrates its 100th birthday Thursday, parent company General Motors (GM) must be said to have aged well after surviving a serious illness in its 98th year.

GM, which has been promoting the centennial for much of the year, chose to mark the actual day with an announcement that Chevrolet sold its 1 millionth Cruze this week.

Clearly, Cruze is a symbol of what is right with the automaker. It's a somewhat unanticipated success that reflects both the effort to more firmly establish GM as a truly global company with common vehicles, as well as a company with U.S. labor costs low enough to allow it to manufacture a successful compact car in its home country.

That, in turn, reflects the success of GM's 2009 bankruptcy restructuring, perhaps also the greatest success of the Obama administration, which used the process to force change and better financial health on a stubborn and bloated organization.

At the same time, close association with the Obama administration, which is closely allied with the United Auto Workers , has made GM a part of our nation's acerbic political climate, no doubt more than it would like to be.

Interestingly, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, perhaps the country's most popular politician, paid a visit last month to GM's Uzbekistan plant and GM issued a brief press release.

Rather than overanalyze, it is best to simply point out that Uzbekistan is the fifth biggest Chevrolet market in the world, after the U.S., Brazil, China and Canada. One of GM's biggest pluses is its truly global reach that includes being the No. 1 automaker in China, the world's biggest auto market.

Despite the positives, it cannot be said that all is right with GM.

To begin with, the performance of the company's shares has been a vast disappointment. GM went public on Nov. 18, 2010, but it is not clear whether the company will celebrate that anniversary quite so enthusiastically.

The IPO price was $33 and GM opened at $35. Since the opening, shares have fallen 33%. Shares closed Wednesday at $23.20.

Meanwhile, the Standard & Poor's 500 Stock Index opened Nov. 18, 2010, at 1184, and has gained 4% over the same time period.

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