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GM to pitch Volt, itself as viable

| Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010

DETROIT -- Starting this week, General Motors embarks on a monthlong effort not only to reintroduce itself to the public -- but to sell itself.

To pitch its initial public offering, tentatively slated for Nov. 18, GM will position itself as a new company with a leaner balance sheet and high-tech, fuel-efficient products such as the Chevy Volt extended-range electric car.

But will investors and consumers buy it?

To succeed, GM's stock must attract big investors and maintain value and momentum when it becomes available to the general public. That's the only way the Treasury will be able to recoup the $50 billion taxpayers gave GM.

But GM is pitching itself to a public with a fresh memory of its bankruptcy.

GM has pointed to the Volt as the main example of its promising technologies. But the Volt introduction early this month must be glitch-free to convince Americans GM really has changed.

Both the Volt introduction and the IPO occur 16 months after GM's emergence from Chapter 11 bankruptcy -- in both cases, more quickly than many thought possible. But those 16 months have been tumultuous, with several executive shake-ups and three CEOs. And the work continues.

"I think it's premature to say we've completed the turnaround," GM CEO Dan Akerson said last week. "We can't live in the moment. We have to look forward."

Starting late this week, two teams of executives will meet with investors in major cities in North America and Europe. They'll sell the stock. They'll sell the Volt. And they'll sell themselves.

The next month holds the possibility of both elation and reality checks for General Motors executives.

Count on celebration as GM returns to the stock market that dumped the company when it went bankrupt last year. But before that, executives must sell GM to initial investors in a "road show." That means meeting after sobering meeting, in which executives must own up to the company's remaining shortcomings and promise to fix them.

While Akerson would not discuss details of the initial public offering, he said his team is looking beyond the short term.

"We have a lot of work in the near to intermediate term, across a wide variety of efforts. But I can assure you that we're thinking well into 2011, '12 and '13," he said. "We're formulating strategies that will lead, I hope, to the long-term success of General Motors -- not next quarter or the quarter after."

GM must sell those strategies to investors. Three people familiar with GM's IPO said main investor concerns include GM's money-losing European sales region, its product plans, its unproven management team and its pension-funding obligations, which amounted to $26.4 billion on June 30.

The IPO, tentatively timed to hit the markets Nov. 18, probably will be in the $8 billion to $12 billion range, people familiar with the planning said, with the final price announced immediately before that date.

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