There's an old saying that while Russian generals learn chess, American generals learn poker. The idea behind this, of course, is that Americans are more likely to take strategic gambles that could fail massively or succeed spectacularly. You can look at McArthur's Inchon gambit during the Korean War for one example; in the business world, you could look at Apple. They were in fairly dire straits before the Ipod proved to be a hit. Since then, they've completely reinvented the company, becoming the largest music retailer and now selling a huge number of Iphones as well, and remaking that market in the process. The computers have also become the envy of their market.
Which brings us to GM. GM, now run by Rick Wagoner, who was on the Duke basketball team in the early '70s, is staking a huge wager on the Volt, GM's answer to Toyota's Prius, and an audacious bid to reinvent not just GM but the entire industry.
If you're unfamiliar, the Volt will reverse the standard hybrid configuration, and a gas motor will recharge a battery, rather than the other way around.
It's an incredibly bold move, and one which could cost Wagoner his job if it fails. If, on the other hand, it succeds, GM will be in a great situation.
This article from the Atlantic really underscores the break-neck pace of this project, and the way that GM has, entirely, departed from their traditional modus operandi.
By the way, if GM needs someone to test it in the field, we're available! ;)