GM Earned $1.4B in 3Q on North American Strength

DETROIT (Detroit Free Press/TNS) -

General Motors earned $1.4 billion in the third quarter, down slightly from a year earlier but exceeding Wall Street expectations, as profits in North America more than offset smaller profits in China and losses in Europe and South America.

On an earnings-per-share basis, GM made $1.50, up 55 percent from a year earlier and easily beating the $1.19-per-share consensus estimate among 16 analysts. But that number was 84 cents after subtracting 66 cents for special accounting charges.

Those charges reflected a $575 million charge in the quarter as a result of agreeing to pay $900 million last month to settle criminal charges arising from its defective ignition switches, which have been tied to 124 deaths.

“These results reflect our work to capitalize on our strengths in the U.S. and China, while taking decisive, proactive steps to mitigate changes elsewhere,” CEO Mary Barra said in a statement.

Total revenue fell 1 percent to $38.8 billion, reflecting lower sales in emerging markets as the automaker scaled back its operations in Russia and saw sales in China soften in recent months.

Once again, it was in North America where consumers are flocking to pickup trucks, large SUVs and other vehicles that generate hefty profit margins. Those sales more than offset GM’s weakness in emerging markets and South America.

The pre-tax operating income in North America was a record $3.3 billion, up from $2.5 billion, and yielding a profit margin of 11.8 percent. Those numbers assure GM will hit its 2016 target for the region of a 10 percent margin a year ahead of schedule.

In trading Wednesday, GM shares rose $1.94, or 5.8 percent, to $35.42.