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General Motors Corp.

may look like a victim of bad luck, its turnaround plan undermined by a collapsing U.S. economy just as GM cars and trucks are starting to compete. Don't be fooled.

That interpretation of GM's latest woes ignores years and years of dallying and denial. The No. 1 U.S. automaker delayed drastic action, hoping that growing automotive revenue might be enough to outstrip ballooning costs.

GM has known at least since the early 1990s that its business model in the U.S. was defunct. The formula that once produced profits for GM, Ford Motor Co. and what was then the Chrysler Corp. -- as well as high wages for union workers -- was rendered obsolete after Japanese automakers broke Detroit's oligopoly. 

Instead of changing their approach, GM and the other U.S. automakers made a feint, designing more and more vehicles based on pickup trucks, expanding categories like full-size sport- utility vehicles where Japan was weak. High gasoline prices since have neutralized that tactic.
 



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