Henderson laid out a clear four-part approach to putting GM back on its feet, starting with a need for a clear business plan that improves profitability and cash flow - though what that looks like will have to wait until GM releases its new plan in the coming weeks.
The second prong of the return to viability will be a clean balance sheet, which means a huge reduction in debt, or as Henderson put it the "balance sheet needs to be significantly de-levered." How, exactly, those debts will be cut is still unknown, however.
Thirdly, a "deeper" restructuring that what GM has already done, in terms of models, brands and labor, will have to be done. Henderson repeatedly referred to the actions of the past year or so as a "good down payment" on what needs to be done over the next 60 days. Expect cuts across the board.
Finally, GM will have to find some way to make its products more competitive, and to generate revenue across its entire model line. Gone are the days of relying on a handful of products to support the rest.
On the issue of bankruptcy, Henderson was brutally frank, but at the same time optimistic about GM's chances to avoid a court-guided restructuring.
"We will do what it takes to be sure GM is successful in the future and that we can win," said Henderson, but went on to say, "If we are not successful doing it out of court, we will do it in court...By no later than June 1 if we are not able to accomplish this outside of bankruptcy, we will be in bankruptcy."
Bankruptcy could in fact come even sooner that June 1, however, if GM management sees that they won't be able to pull the company out of its hole in time for the June 1 deadline. "If we're not able to accomplish what we need to do ... to have a viable business, we'll move faster...More time isn't going to help the process," said Henderson.
Decisions on Saturn and Hummer expected today are still forthcoming, though Henderson did say Hummer is within a few weeks of coming to a decision on whether it will sell or not. Saturn will continue through 2011 - the end of its current product life cycle, but what the plan will be after that is still under wraps.