Financial Performance

Pricey Pickups Power GM Earnings in Q4

Strong sales of high-margin pickups and small SUVs fueled an earnings beat for GM despite weak demand in China.
Matthew HellerFebruary 6, 2019
Pricey Pickups Power GM Earnings in Q4

General Motors’ quarterly earnings beat analysts’ estimates as strong sales of high-margin pickup trucks and small SUVs in the U.S. offset weak demand in China and South America.

For the fourth quarter, the automaker’s adjusted earnings fell 13.3% to $1.43 per share while net revenue rose 1.8% to $38.4 billion. Analysts had expected earnings of $1.22 per share on revenue of $36.48 billion.

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Total North America vehicle sales dipped 4.2% to 917,000 but GM’s bottom line was boosted by pickup truck sales, which are a profitable and growing share of its product lineup.

Average transaction prices reached a record of nearly $36,000, with sales of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups and the midsize Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon pickups rising 3%.

Overall, GM’s vehicle sales declined 13.5% to 2.24 million.

“Yes, it was [an earnings] beat relative to consensus, but we think you have to take this report with a grain of salt, as their adjusted earnings were down more than 13% year-over-year,” CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson told CNBC.

“We are very concerned about GM’s worsening vehicle sales trends … and the company’s exposure to a slowing China market, which we think could challenge the company’s ability to hit their full-year earnings guidance,” he added.

China, the world’s largest automobile market, has been experiencing a slowdown in economic growth. “Our outlook for China overall is for the auto industry to be flat year over year,” GM CFO Dhivya Suryadevara told reporters. “If you take a look at some of these economic indicators coming out of China, there are early signs of stabilization.”

She noted that the Cadillac brand “was up across the board about 20 percent year over year in 2018, in a declining market environment. So what we’re focused on is what we can execute.”

Under CEO Mary Barra, GM has been emphasizing the development of electric vehicles and self-driving car technology and reducing the production of slower-selling sedans and traditional passenger cars. The company is also in the midst of a plan to cut 14,000 jobs.