General Motors aims to defend its dominant position in the shrunken but still profit-rich market for large SUVs with its first redesign of the body-on-frame trucks in eight years.
General Motors today posted higher second-quarter net profit in its two biggest markets -- North America and China -- and surprised analysts with a much narrower loss in Europe.
General Motors' corporate debt has an investment-grade rating for the first time since 2005, a key milestone in GM's comeback from bankruptcy.
GM today simultaneously unveiled the 2015 Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, along with its platform siblings, the GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, at events in Los Angeles, New York and Dallas.
But weaker results in Southeast Asia and Australia, partly due to pricing pressure from the devalued Japanese yen, emerged as a problem spot during the April-June period, leading to a 19 percent drop in GM's net income, to $1.2 billion.
Moody's Investors Service today raised GM's rating to Baa3 -- its lowest level of investment grade -- from Ba1. The credit-rating firm cited GM's quality new product introductions in the United States, its strong market position in China and management's commitment to maintaining a strong balance sheet.
The SUVs, built on the same platform as GM's recently launched full-sized pickups, feature a tauter, more aerodynamic look, roomier and more upscale interiors and a quieter ride, and they offer more power and better fuel efficiency, GM promises. The company didn't disclose EPA ratings.
One-time items subtracted $200 million from GM's net income. Earnings before interest and taxes and excluding those nonrecurring items -- the figure that GM considers the best measure of its results -- rose 7 percent, to $2.3 billion.
GM also said today that it will buy back 120 million of its preferred shares from the UAW's retiree health care trust, or VEBA, for about $3.2 billion.
The SUVs will still be built in Arlington, Texas, and will go on sale during the first quarter of 2014.
CFO Dan Ammann told reporters at GM headquarters today that a slate of U.S. model introductions planned for the second half of the year should provide a "tailwind" for GM's North American unit, its biggest profit generator. GM North America's pretax profit edged higher by 5 percent, to $2.0 billion.
"Good things happen when you build great cars and trucks and deliver strong financial results," GM CEO Dan Akerson said in a statement. "Today's news from Moody's further underscores that this is exactly what we are doing today."
Around the time of GM's bankruptcy in mid-2009, company executives considered abandoning the big-SUV market. Many industry insiders had speculated that rising gasoline prices would wipe out demand for the fuel-thirsty trucks.
He said GM is "moving right into the rich part of our launch cycle for a lot of our new products," including the continuation of the pickup rollout and pending launches of the redesigned Chevrolet Corvette and Cadillac CTS sedan. "That sets us up very nicely for the second half of the year."
Bruce Clark, a senior vice president at Moody's, lauded GM's "steadily improving operational and financial trajectory."
Since then, gasoline prices have moderated and GM has hung on to its loyal SUV customers to command a 44 percent share of the segment, according to the Automotive News Data Center. Sales volumes have dropped by nearly half since 2005, but the trucks have become even more profitable amid escalating prices, despite a dearth of new features or content.
But GM's bottom line was hurt by higher costs associated with those launches, especially the pickup introduction, which began in late May. Those costs offset continued strong pricing in the United States, Ammann said. 汽车配件
"We think that the disciplines the company has embraced, combined with the strength of its U.S. product portfolio and a healthy domestic market, will enable it to stay on that path," Clark said in a statement.
Kelley Blue Book pegs the Suburban's average transaction price so far in 2013 at $54,028, up 21 percent from the average for all of 2008. Tahoe's average prices are up 23 percent during that stretch, to $49,543.
Products driving results
The other two major ratings agencies -- Standard & Poor's and Fitch -- both have junk-status ratings on GM's corporate debt, although both agencies in recent weeks raised their outlooks for the company to positive, from stable.
The redesigned SUVs "will continue to be dominant forces" in "an important and profitable segment," GM CFO Dan Ammann said in a statement.
The overall result marks GM's 14th straight quarterly profit since it emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy. It has piled up more than $19 billion in profits since then.
Moody's said that GM's rating could improve further if it strengthens its profit margin in North America and shores up its losses in Europe. It cited the possibility of aggressive pricing by Japanese rivals amid the decline in the value of the yen as a key risk.
The agreement with the UAW trust is contingent upon GM closing an offering of senior unsecured notes that it's starting today, the automaker said in a statement.
The deal, along with U.S. and Canadian governments' efforts to reduce their ownership of the automaker, marks the latest move to pay back stakeholders in the 2009 restructuring.
GM has been paying a 9 percent annual interest rate on the preferred shares held by the union trust and the new debt would presumably be at a cheaper interest rate. GM didn't specify how much new debt it was seeking in the market. It plans to offer five-, 10- and 30-year notes.
Replacing the trust's preferred shares with new bonds is essentially refinancing GM's debt at less cost, Joseph Phillippi, principal of consulting firm AutoTrends Inc. in Andover, N.J., said in a telephone interview.
亚洲城ca88手机版注册，The new offering would mark GM's first unsecured offering since emerging from bankruptcy, the automaker said in an e-mail.
The UAW retiree trust currently holds 260 million shares. GM said it expects to record costs of about $800 million in the third quarter because of the transaction. GM has the ability to call the remaining preferred shares at the end of next year. The trust acquired the shares as part of the 2009 bailout.
The U.S. Treasury Department has reduced its stake in the automaker to 7.3 percent as part of a program to sell all of its shares as soon as this year. The Treasury's stake is down from 32 percent in December when the government announced it was selling $5.5 billion of its stock back to GM and planning to sell the rest on the market within 15 months.
The U.S. said this month in a report it had recovered $35.4 billion of $51 billion invested in GM. With the remaining stake worth about $3.8 billion, the U.S. would probably lose about $11.8 billion.
Canada is also looking to exit its ownership in GM. The Canadian and Ontario governments earlier this month agreed to sell 30 million GM shares worth about $1.1 billion to Bank of America Corp. and Royal Bank of Canada in a block trade, reducing their stake by 21 percent to 110 million shares.
The governments are exiting GM as investor confidence has risen while the company introduces 18 new or redesigned vehicles in the U.S., transforming its lineup into one of the freshest in the industry from the one of the oldest. The restructured company held its initial public offering in 2010 at $33 a share./