GM reports lower-than-expected 4Q earnings

GM's CFO : Restructuring costs caused earnings miss

Profits at General Motors in the fourth-quarter rose 2 percent from a year ago, but the company fell way short of Wall Street expectations.

GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told CNBC on Thursday that higher tax rates contributed to about a third of the earnings miss, while restructuring costs made up the rest. In a "Squawk Box" interview, he still described the quarter as "very, very solid results."

GM's North American earnings were $913 million, or 57 cents per share. That compares with $892 million, or 54 cents per share, in the period a year earlier. Revenue rose 3 percent to $40.5 billion.

GM earnings miss by a wide margin

Excluding one-time items, GM made 67 cents per share. But analysts polled by FactSet expected 88 cents on revenue of $40.8 billion. Those items included $200 million in restructuring costs, in large part, related to the exit of the Chevrolet brand from Europe.

For the year, GM's earnings fell 22 percent to $3.8 billion or $2.38 per share. Without one-time items it earned $3.18 per share.

GM also announced that 48,500 U.S. hourly workers will get up to $7,500 in profit-sharing checks.

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In Europe, GM shrunk its loss by more than half to $345 million. Analysts had expected red ink of $399 million. Stevens said the automaker is fully committed to its mid-decade goal of breaking even there.

"We really got significant traction on the cost side of the business" in Europe, he added. "On the market ... we grew share for Opel-Vauxhall for the first time in 14 years. We had improved revenue in the second half of the year."

Stevens said a buildup in inventory can be partly blamed on bad weather curtailing sales. North American inventory has grown to 111 days, higher than many people were expecting.

Last month in a "Squawk Box" appearance, AutoNation Chairman and CEO Mike Jackson warned automakers to watch their inventory levels.

(Read more: No reason to panic about January auto sales)

The GM CFO said he sees a selling rate of 16 million to 16.5 million units for the industry in 2014.

—By CNBC's Matthew J. Belvedere. Follow him on Twitter @Matt_SquawkCNBC. Wire services contributed to this article.