GM earnings top Street estimates by a wide margin, with strong net income

Key Points
  • EPS: $1.70, versus $1.46 expected by Thomson One analysts' consensus.
  • Revenue: $41.2 billion, versus $40.75 billion expected by Thomson One.

GM CFO: Q1 sales strong in North America

General Motors' first-quarter earnings rose 34 percent, topping Wall Street estimates by a wide margin, as strong pickup truck and SUV sales in the U.S. helped the company shrug off weaker sales in other regions.

Here's what the company reported versus what the Street was expecting:

  • EPS: $1.70 a share, versus $1.48 a share expected by Thomson Reuters analysts' consensus.
  • Revenue: $41.2 billion, versus $40.75 billion expected by Thomson Reuters.

Shares were trading up 1.3 percent before the market's open.

Net income in the latest period climbed to $2.6 billion from $2 billion a year earlier, while revenue rose 11 percent to $41.2 billion from $36.27 billion in revenue a year ago.

The automaker posted particularly strong sales of trucks and SUVs, matching a trend seen elsewhere in the industry.

"Our first-quarter results reflect our resolve to grow profitably and demonstrate the strong
earnings power of this company," said Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, in a press release. "More importantly, we advanced our strategic plan to transform GM for the long term and unlock more value for our shareholders."

Performance in North America was especially strong. North America generated $3.4 billion in adjusted earnings before interest and taxes with 11.7 percent margins, both first-quarter records for the company, said GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens, on CNBC's "Squawk Box"Friday morning.

Stevens attributed the performance to the strength of the company's product launch cadence, the strength of its truck line, and GM's "intense focus" on costs.

Stevens said GM is "very optimistic" about the vehicles it will release later this year as well.

Last year the company released the crossover SUV's Cadillac XT5 and the GMC Acadia, and it will further refresh the line later this year with the Chevrolet Equinox, the GMC Terrain, the Buick Enclave, and Chevrolet Traverse.

North American performance offset slight losses in both Europe and South America. The company blamed foreign exchange impacts in both cases. The company cited broader economic challenges in South America, and Brexit-related currency impacts in Europe.

In China, retail deliveries fell 5.2 percent to 913,442 vehicles, due to a reduction in the country's vehicle tax purchase incentive.

GM said in March it will sell its Opel and Vauxhall European brands, as well as its GM Financial European operations to French carmaker PSA Group.

The deal will allow GM to reduce its cash balance by $2 billion, which it plans to use to accelerate share buybacks.

Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that GM earned $1.70 a share in the first quarter.