Is GM a Buy?

I recently had a discussion about investing in General Motors (GM). I thought I'd share that discussion succinctly here.

  1. GM is now profitable.
  2. Trading close to book value. Buy the assets, get the income stream for free.
  3. Car sales are up year-to-date.
  4. Car manufacturers are stepping up ad spending, so this could spur even more sales.
  5. The government has taken an interest in the company (the taxpayer still owns about 26% of GM). This could put a floor under the stock.
  6. GM has experience in alternative ("green") fuels and electric vehicles, which is the current trend these days. 
  7. Insider buying is positive. The CEO keeps buying shares.
  8. Internal organization is very different now than it was before bankruptcy. 
  9. The company is making progress towards fully funding its pension plan. The "hole" came down from $17 billion to just around $10 billion in the last six months.

  1. The "free" income stream from the pros reason number two above can easily be destroyed by a downturn, poor management or more government intervention.
  2. Government still owns about 26% of the company. History shows that government is terrible at handling companies (see Post Office and and Amtrak for examples).
  3. Alternative fuels and electric cars are not the specialty of GM. There are better-equipped competitors out there that, albeit smaller, could eat GM's lunch in this growing sector  (think Tesla,  BYD).
  4. GM does not yet pay a dividend.
  5. The company's pension plan is still underfunded by a non-trivial amount ($10 billion).

Overall, I thought I'd take my chances and started a small position in GM.

Disclaimers: I own GM at the time of writing.