General Motors was financially vulnerable before the automotive industry crisis of 2008-2009. It came close to insolvency and bankruptcy after falling sales caused a US$4.45 billion loss in 1991. Cost-cutting and management changes restored profitability for the next 10 years. In 2005 the company posted a loss of US$10.6 billion. In 2006, its attempts to obtain U.S. government financing to support its pension liabilities and also to form commercial alliances with Nissan and Renault failed. For fiscal year 2007, GM's losses for the year were US$38.7 billion, and sales for the following year dropped by 45%.
On November 7, 2008 General Motors reported it had projected it would run out of cash around mid-2009 without a combination of government funding, a merger, or sales of assets. Ten days later General Motors representatives, along with executives from Ford and Chrysler testified about their need for financial aid at a Congressional hearing in Washington D.C. All three companies were unsuccessful in their attempts to obtain legislation to authorize U.S. government aid, and were invited to draft a new action plan for the sustainability of the industry. On December 2, 2008, General Motors submitted its "Restructuring Plan for Long-Term Viability" to the Senate Banking Committee and House of Representatives Financial Services Committee. Congress declined to act, but in December 2008 the Bush administration provided a "bridge loan" to General Motors with the requirement of a revised business plan. It said it needed $4.6 billion in loans within weeks, from the $18 billion it had already requested, and an additional $12 billion in financial support in order to stave off bankruptcy. On Feb. 26, 2009, General Motors announced that its cash reserves were down to $14 billion at the end of 2008. G.M. lost $30.9 billion, or $53.32 a share, in 2008 and spent $19.2 billion of its cash reserves. Mr. Wagoner met with President Obama’s auto task force, and the company said that it could not survive much longer without additional government loans.
On the March 30, 2009 deadline President Barack Obama declined to provide financial aid to General Motors, and requested that General Motors produce credible plans, saying that the company's proposals had avoided tough decisions, and that Chapter 11 bankruptcy appeared the most promising way to reduce its debts, by allowing the courts to compel bondholders and trade unions into settlements. GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner was also forced to resign. GM bondholders rejected the government's first offer, but the unions agreed to the preferential terms. A bondholder debt to equity counteroffer was ignored.