DETROIT -- Ten years ago, General Motors was in deep trouble.
Yet then-CEO Rick Wagoner took the stage at the 2007 Detroit auto show with his usual stoic confidence. On the other side of the wall was the Chevrolet Volt, a plug-in hybrid concept car that was as much about proving that GM still had a bright future as it was about guzzling less gasoline.
"This isn't about science projects," Wagoner said after unveiling the Volt. "This is about creating cars and trucks propelled in an efficient manner that people really want to own. And that's the way we're going to win."
The Volt didn't keep GM out of bankruptcy (or save Wagoner's job), and consumers didn't embrace it the way GM had projected. But it did set GM on a decadelong path that culminated in last month's launch of the Chevy Bolt, a battery-powered car that presages a future with self-driving, emissions-free vehicles that consumers might share rather than own.
GM's journey from the Volt to the Bolt mirrors the dramatic shifts and lessons for the entire auto industry over the course of that decade. The fact that the Bolt runs on electricity is now only part of its story: Its greatest legacy may lie in its ability to help GM navigate a future in which automakers that fall too far behind can become obsolete.
The Bolt arrives as automakers race to acquire technology startups, align themselves with ride-hailing companies and battle Silicon Valley for software-development talent. Many of the news conferences that kick off the Detroit show next week will focus on that mobility frenzy rather than traditional vehicle debuts.
In this new world, Google's newly formed Waymo unit plans to show off a self-driving Chrysler Pacifica minivan on Sunday in Detroit. But Fiat Chrysler, whose past auto show stunts include crashing Jeeps through windows and herding steers through downtown streets, has nothing new planned for Detroit this year; it's debuting an electric Pacifica at the CES technology expo this week in Las Vegas instead.