General Motors was dying. That was the message in the newspapers and magazines as business writers honed their obituary skills. The smell of corporate demise left a cold fear in the hallways of GM buildings in Detroit and its suburbs. Downsized, battered, and adrift in a tattered economy, the world's largest corporation staggered under new blows. Wall Street had cut the giant's credit rating. Its stock price was plummeting. And its cars weren't selling.
If money were blood, the company would already be dead. It was hemorrhaging by the billions. Its top management was in disarray. A "car guy," an engineer who'd come up through the...