GM and its Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid were seized on by Republicans who used it as the symbol of the auto bailout, which was unpopular outside of auto-heavy states, such as Ohio and Michigan. Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich faulted the Volt for its lack of space for a gun rack, while nominee Mitt Romney called it “an idea whose time has not come.” American Tradition Partnership Inc., a conservative group, referred to Volts as “exploding Obamamobiles.”

Obama said he “refused to walk away” when the industry was poised to lose 1 million jobs in the midst of a deep recession. The 18-month contraction was the longest since the 43-month slump during the Great Depression, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.

“When things looked darkest for our most iconic industry, we bet on what was true: the ingenuity and resilience of the proud, hardworking men and women who make this country strong,” Obama said in statement. “Today, that bet has paid off. The American auto industry is back.”

More Changes

Now that U.S. automakers have emerged from a painful period of restructuring and they’re all turning profits, more changes are visible on the horizon.

Akerson recently turned 65 and the company had previously announced that his compensation has been changed to allow him to retire within three years. Ford CEO Alan Mulally, 68, is among the leading candidates to become the next Microsoft CEO, people familiar with the matter have said. Chrysler Group LLC, majority owned by Fiat SpA, is preparing for an IPO early next year.

The Treasury began its sell-down of GM shares about a year ago after announcing in a deal for the automaker to buy back $5.5 billion worth of stock, or 40 percent of the government’s holding at the time. The Treasury also said it would sell off the remaining shares within 15 months in the open market.

The government’s plan to exit helped boost investor confidence, and GM rose in May above its $33 a share IPO price for the first time in more than two years after falling to a low of $18.80 in July 2012.

“Had we not acted to support the automotive industry, the cost to the country would have been substantial -- in terms of lost jobs, lost tax revenue, reduced economic production, and other consequences,” the Treasury said in an e-mailed statement.

GM’s largest shareholder is now the United Auto Workers retiree health-care trust with 9.2 percent, followed by the Canadian governments with 7.2 percent, GM said in a statement.