If the major automakers were allowed to go bankrupt it would have been very bad for the entire economy. Although it was bad that the government had to bail them out, it would have been worse if the whole economy had to suffer. In the end, the automakers had to pay back their debts.
The auto bailouts were a contentious period of the Great Recession. The Bush Administration bailed out automakers to prevent a second Great Depression with billions of dollars in loan guarantees so the companies wouldn't layoff thousands of workers. The resulting loss in consumer spending would ripple through the global economy. Yet, individual Americans file for bankruptcy protection every year. There is nothing wrong with companies filing for the same protections as the stigma of banruptcy isn't as bad as it used to be--the legal maneuver is simply a way of life.