FILE - In this July 16, 2019, file photo Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra speaks during the opening of contract talks with the United Auto Workers in Detroit. General Motors reports financial results Thursday, Aug. 1. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

GM earnings rise 1% as buyers pay more for popular pickups

August 01, 2019 - 8:41 am

DETROIT (AP) — General Motors said Thursday that higher prices for popular pickup trucks and SUVs helped overcome slowing global sales and profit rose by 1% in the second quarter.

The Detroit automaker said it made $2.42 billion, or $1.66 per share, from April through June. Adjusting for restructuring costs, GM made $1.64 per share, blowing by analyst estimates of $1.44.

Quarterly revenue fell 2% to $36.06 billion, but still beat estimates. Analysts polled by FactSet expected $35.97 billion.

Global sales fell 6% to 1.94 million vehicles led by declines in North America and Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa. The company says sales in China were weak, and it expects that to continue through the year.

In the United States, customers paid an average of $41,461 for a GM vehicle during the quarter, an increase of 2.2%, as buyers went for loaded-out pickups and SUVs, according to the Edmunds.com auto pricing site. The U.S. is GM's most profitable market.

Chief Financial Officer Dhivya Suryadevara said she expects the strong pricing to continue, especially as GM rolls out a diesel pickup and new heavy-duty trucks in the second half of the year.

"We think the fundamentals do remain strong, especially in the truck market," she said, adding that strength in the overall economy and aging trucks now on the road should help keep the trend going.

Light trucks accounted for 83.1% of GM's sales in the quarter, and pickup truck sales rose 8.5% as GM transitioned to new models of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, according to Edmunds, which provides content to The Associated Press.

As usual, GM made most of its money in North America, reporting $3 billion in pretax earnings. International operations including China broke even, while the company spent $300 million on its GM Cruise automated vehicle unit. Its financial arm made $500 million in pretax income.

Suryadevara said GM saw $700 million in savings during the quarter from restructuring actions announced late last year that included cutting about 8,000 white-collar workers through layoffs, buyouts and early retirements. The company also announced plans to close five North American factories, shedding another 6,000 jobs. About 3,000 factory workers in the U.S. whose jobs were eliminated at four plants will be placed at other factories, but they could have to relocate.

GM expects the restructuring to generate $2 billion to $2.5 billion in annual cost savings by the end of this year.

CEO Mary Barra told analysts on a conference call Thursday that the company is hiring white collar workers with skills in growth areas. For example, GM is in the process of adding 500 workers for automated vehicles at Cruise, raising the workforce to 2,000.

Many of the white-collar layoffs came from work on the internal combustion engine, and administration.

"We are hiring now to replace attrition but maintain the lower cost level that we've worked so hard to get," Barra said.

GM repeated its guidance for full-year adjusted pretax income of $6.50 to $7 per share. Shares rose almost 3 percent in midday trading Thursday.

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