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Seaport Global initiated coverage on General Motors Wednesday as a buy with a price target of $48, citing the automaker's recent restructuring efforts and its leadership in China, self-driving car technology and the growing light truck segment.
The news comes one day after Reuters reported that GM and Amazon are in talks to invest in electric pickup truck maker Rivian Automotive.
GM's 2018 profit margin was the fourth highest on record, despite the adverse impact from the changeover to new pickup trucks, Ward said in the note.
The automaker is currently undertaking a plan to restructure its businesses, which GM said should save it several billion in costs and lowered capital expenditures by 2020. The plans include about 14,000 job cuts.
"Unlike the past, GM is not waiting for a downturn to implement cost efficiencies," Ward said.
GM is a leader in self-driving car technology, he said. Its Cruise Automation unit received investments from both Japanese conglomerate SoftBank and Japanese automaker Honda in 2018. These bets place Cruise's value at roughly $15 billion. The unit could be spun off within a year or two, Ward said.
In the short term, the largest U.S. automaker is also particularly well positioned to take advantage of growth in sales of light trucks, Ward said.
Light trucks pulled in just over 69 percent of the total U.S. light vehicle market in 2018, up from nearly 57 percent in 2015. Trucks, which include the high-growth SUV and crossover segments, often command higher transaction prices than comparably-sized cars, which often yields higher profits for automakers. On average, buyers spend $12,000 more on a truck than they do on a car.