When General Motors went bankrupt seven and a half years ago, the Ayn Randers argued that it was time to strip the rotting General to the studs.

PSA CEO Carlos Tavares (left) shakes hands on the Opel deal with GM CEO Mary Barra.

The chorus of critics and GM-haters said GM must kill Pontiac, abandon Saab, shoot Saturn straight into the sun and put a do-not-resuscitate sticker on Buick, grandpa’s brand. The libertarian ideologues also said GM should eliminate GMC, which only duplicates Chevrolet’s truck lineup.

They also argued the time had come to walk away from Opel (and Vauxhall), the German/British arm of GM that has lost billions over decades.

Critics argued that Chapter 11 reorganization would allow GM to reduce itself to two brands, both global and both with massive potential: Chevrolet and Cadillac. The goal: reimagine GM as Toyota/Lexus.

GM would then be free to zero in on on reinventing itself without all the multi-brand confusion. Emerging from bankruptcy, GM needed to focus its resources – backstopped by taxpayers in Canada and the United States – on this two-brand strategy.

Here we are in 2017 and what’s happened? The hardcore types have largely been vindicated.

Maven, General Motors’ personal mobility brand, announces it is adding more than 100 Chevrolet Bolt EVs in the Los Angeles market,. Could Maven be at the centre of a future Chevy strategy for Europe?

Okay, Buick is still with us and it’s become an astounding success thanks to its Chinese base. Those calling for GM to jettison Buick didn’t understand the importance of China, now the world’s largest new-car market.

Meanwhile, however, Pontiac, Saab and Saturn are gone. GMC is slowly and steadily withering from neglect and duplication. But Opel has long been a hopeless case. Thus, GM has taken the bold and forward-looking decision to dump it onto the PSA Group – a ward of the French government, China’s Dongfeng Motors and the Peugeot family.

An emboldened PSA has been enjoying a happy resurgence of late, guided by the steady hand of CEO Carlos Taveras, a former top Renault-Nissan Alliance executive. Taveras was once known as “Little Carlos” in deference to turnaround artist and long-time Renault-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn.

It’s possible the new PSA-Opel alliance will emerge as a success to rival Renault-Nissan, but it’s more likely that a Eurocentric PSA-Opel will prove a disaster. I find it hard to imagine a more toxic brew: a two second-tier European car companies beholden to the mixed agendas and cultural whims of French politicians, Chinese “businesspeople,” the Peugeot clan and powerful union interests. Good luck, Little Carlos.

For GM, however, there is only good news in letting loose the Opel anchor. GM gets $2.9 billion (US) but retains about $10 billion (US) in pension liabilities. In exchange, GM no longer needs to pump billions into propping up Opel and Vauxhaul, something that’s been happening since the 1920s.

Critics of the Opel deal cannot fathom GM’s foolishness. Jamie Kitman, a long-time auto journalist, writes in The New York Times that GM is wrong to sell off a European division known for making some of the “most sophisticated small- and medium-sized passenger cars” in the world.

Kitman and his ilk also argue that while the Opel sale might juice GM’s share price for now, GM eventually will suffer for having chosen to focus its “resources on the American and Chinese markets.” Opel’s engineering expertise will also be greatly missed.

Not at all. GM’s engineering and design centres in North America and Asia will pick up any slack. GM’s most advanced vehicle to date, the Bolt electric vehicle (EV), was engineered in North America and designed in South Korea. GM can create high-tech, fuel efficient, modern cars and light trucks without Opel

And GM is retaining an interest in PSA-Opel through its ownership of warrants to purchase shares of PSA. You can expect GM and PSA to collaborate on all sorts of vehicle and technology projects. But GM won’t be charged with doing the impossible: making Opel profitable.

GM is now free to become what the critics wanted years ago: a car company with a simplified brand structure. Now here’s what few are talking about, yet: over time, however, Cadillac and Chevrolet will become GM’s core European brands. GM is not abandoning Europe, just creating a new strategy for it.

You can be certain that Cadillac will now make a fierce push into Europe, and soon. There are fat profits to be made selling Caddies to Germans and Brits. Then will come the Chevy invasion of Europe.

My bet is that Chevy’s European drive will be combined with Maven, GM’s mobility brand. Indeed, the future of car companies in Europe is on the mobility services side of the business.

The Opel sale, then, is a brilliant and brave move, and one that suggests GM’s management is not willing to suffer endless losses based on historical precedent. GM’s clear-eyed, sensible, forward-thinking and courageous decision-making is startling and laudable.

Even the fiercest doubters must admit that the GM of 2017 is nothing like the wreck of 2009.

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