Q&A: GM's 'Going Concern' Letter

My gut reaction when I saw the news this morning was, "Is this news?"

This is just an accounting-related filing that General Motors ( GM) is forced to file with the SEC. Every single person reading this article, and for that matter any random person on the street that you talk to, knew that GM had issues as a "going concern" (put in quotes because the only time you ever use that phrase is in an 8-K filing that your accounting firm forces you to file with the SEC).

Is it real or is it just to put a gun at the head of the government?

Of course the answer is the latter. The faster GM approaches bankruptcy, the faster the government has to react.

Is GM too big to fail?

We all know the argument: millions of jobs will get lost, etc. I don't quite believe this. Whether or not GM goes bankrupt, the same number of people will end up buying cars next year as would have bought them.

The question is really more on the demand side rather than the supply side where GM sits. Will business move overseas? Of course not -- many of the car manufacturers already build their cars here.

Will there be pain? Of course, particularly in Michigan, which is already technically bankrupt because of dependence on the auto industry, an aging workforce and current reliance on federal money to pay bills. If anything, I'd worry more about bailing out Michigan than GM. Don't forget that the largest Toyota ( TM) plant in the world is in Kentucky.

Are GM pensions safe?

There's no answer to this question. My gut tells me yes, this is where the government bailout can occur, but nobody knows.

What stocks should we look at?

In particular, look for car-related stocks that are linked to the U.S. auto industry that have been crushed but still have the balance sheets to ride this out.

My favorite pick is Autoliv ( ALV), which dominates the space for airbags and seatbelts. The company owns the most airbag patents worldwide and has saved my life on numerous occasions when I've been in the driver's seat (which is why my license has been forcibly removed).

Toyota and AutoZone ( AZO) are the obvious plays here. Toyota might get overflow customers while AutoZone, which is at a 52-week high albeit for 10 times earnings, will get more customers as people decide to fix their cars rather than buy new.

I also like Copart ( CPRT), which has been crushed with the auto industry but trades for just 9 times earnings, has no debt and $50 million cash in the bank, and has experienced year-over-year growth in revenues over the past year.

Is GM's bankruptcy the death knell of capitalism?

Not at all - it's a sign that in capitalism, industries change, innovation allows us to leap forward and new companies will flourish.


Know What You Own: Other auto part retailers include O'Reilly Automotive (ORLY) and Advance Auto Parts (AAP). For more on the value of knowing what you own, visit TheStreet.com's Investing A-to-Z section.

At the time of publication, Altucher and/or his fund had no positions in the stocks mentioned, although positions may change at any time.

James Altucher is president of Stockpickr LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of TheStreet.com and part of its network of Web properties, and a managing partner at Formula Capital, an alternative asset management firm that runs a fund of hedge funds. He is also a weekly columnist for the Financial Times and the author of Trade Like a Hedge Fund, Trade Like Warren Buffett and SuperCa$h. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Altucher appreciates your feedback; click here to send him an email.

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