(Story courtesy of Edmunds Auto Observer) General Motors’ annual conference with investors and financial analysts this week sent the message that the automaker, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy just over two years ago, has demonstrated improvement but has a long-term plan for substantially more progress to be made. The plan, GM Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson told the audience, has “all the requisites to push this company from good to great.” The pillars of the plan are: design, build and sell the world’s best vehicles; strengthen brand value; grow profitably globally (profits over market share); and maintain a “fortress” balance sheet that weathers the ups and downs of the economy and auto sales.

GM’s second annual Global Business Conference was held after the stock market plunged 634 points following Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the U.S. credit rating. “I’m glad we had a good second quarter,” Akerson quipped. On a more serious note, he cautioned that the volatile stock market and fragile economy could impact car sales, which he predicts will be at the low end of GM’s official 13 million to 13.5 million range for the U.S. this year. “There’s a lot of turmoil and with turmoil comes uncertainty. We’re a little unsure of these numbers but that’s the way we’re looking at it right now,” he said.

GM executives said little about when the U.S. government will be completely out of the automaker’s business, a move that could be delayed by the stock market’s roller coaster ride. GM insiders had said they hoped the U.S. Treasury Department would sell the rest of its 500 million shares this fall, following GM’s strong second-quarter performance. But the value of GM’s stock has dropped along with the rest of the market, from the $33 per share last November when GM launched its Initial Public Offering to this week’s trading below $25 per share. GM CFO Dan Ammann, in response to questions by analysts, said simply “A decision to sell stock is their (the government’s) decision and they’ll make their own decision on when and how.” Ammann told analysts to sit tight until year-end to see what GM does on its dividend.

Rather than spending a lot of time discussing the current situation, GM’s presenters from product development, manufacturing, purchasing and marketing focused on the future.