DETROIT (AP) — General Motors Corp. appeared headed toward a record-short escape from bankruptcy protection Thursday despite a last-minute appeal that a legal expert said was unlikely to stand in the way.

A bankruptcy judge’s order approving the sale of most of GM’s assets to a new company was to go into effect at noon. An appeal was filed just before the deadline by plaintiffs in an Arizona product liability lawsuit against the automaker. It was unclear if the appeal delayed the sale approval.

When it exits bankruptcy, GM, once the world’s largest and most powerful automaker, will be a leaner and greener company, cleansed of debts and burdensome contracts that nearly dragged it into liquidation.

But it faces brutal international competition and the worst auto sales market in more than 25 years.

John Pottow, a University of Michigan Law School professor who specializes in bankruptcy, said opponents have little legal recourse to block the sale because their issues were shot down by higher courts in Chrysler’s bankruptcy case.

“It’s done,” Pottow said. “I knew they were dead as soon as the Chrysler case was decided.”

He expects GM to close the deal and emerge from bankruptcy on Thursday in 39 days, a record for a company its size, he said.

GM lawyers were preparing documents to close the sale as quickly as possible, but company spokesman Tom Wilkinson said he could not give a time frame.


AP Auto Writer Bree Fowler in New York contributed to this report.