When the news came that General Motors had turned a tidy first-quarter profit, it almost felt like some kind of flashback to the days of big tail fins.
In the past five years, what was once the world's biggest corporation has lost $88 billion, has gone through bankruptcy and is now mostly owned by the federal government. Some analysts thought GM might never again turn a profit.
Yet not only did it make a net $865 million in the first quarter, the way the company made money this time is itself cause for optimism. General Motors actually made a profit of more than $1 billion in North America from selling cars and trucks in its core market. That often wasn't the case in recent years, even when the giant automaker was profitable.
One quarter does not, of course, a recovery make. It is still far from clear how long it will take to get to the point where the company is stable and profitable enough for the government to issue shares, sell it back to investors and recover the taxpayers' huge involuntary investment in GM.
Yet it is also encouraging that a new breed of GM executives seems to understand this. Americans who were opposed to the bailout also have to hope the General succeeds. The taxpayers need it to; after all, it is their money at stake.