Let's go ahead and get it out there: General Motors doesn't have a plan for Saab, Saturn, or HUMMER – it has a bunch of hopes, ideas and proposals. The best that GM can do with Saab is try to extricate the brand from its entangled web, which might make it more attractive to a buyer. That includes moving 9-3 and 9-5 production to Sweden and being "engaged with the Swedish government" on a plan for Saab's future. But GM has admitted that "Saab is not a U.S. strategy," and the code behind that statement is probably, "We get rid of or kill it."

GM's focus is on Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick and GMC, and Pontiac "will shrink substantially." The other brands appear to be waiting out their death row sentences on appeal. Saturn, like Saab, is so entrenched in GM that an outside buyer is a remarkably dim prospect. Saturn production is funded until 2012 (for now), but unless GM finds a partner or folds it into the mothership, it would appear to have no future beyond then. HUMMER is living like a medieval leper, locked up in a shed outside the castle walls.

But let's also get this out there: there are two ways out of this impasse. One of them is to spend a lot of money assisting GM. The other is to let GM fail and spend a lot of money cleaning up after GM. (Remember our perspective on "a lot of money:" Citibank got $45 billion after a couple of phone calls and recently had to be asked by the Obama administration not to spend $50 million on a French corporate jet.)

In two weeks GM is supposed to "show that it is likely to achieve long-term profitability and has a positive net present value." Let's be honest: there is no way GM (nor Chrysler) can prove long term viability in the next 15 days. (Neither could many companies if they had to.) If GM's viability plan is rejected, the government could ask for its $13.4 billion dollars back, which would be the equivalent of taking GM out back and shooting it. And that would be the equivalent of emptying another ammo clip into the economy's slowly-beating heart. All of which is to say that we have no idea how this will play out, but we're pretty sure that this is only the beginning of the beginning.

[Source: Automotive News, sub req'd]