All is forgiven, based on the movement of General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) shares recently. Record recalls, trouble in Europe and what some thought were modest U.S. sales have not kept the stock of the largest U.S. auto manufacturer from outpacing rivals Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Toyota Motor Corp. (NYSE: TM).
During the past three months, a period during which all three companies announced their earnings for the end of calendar 2014 (Toyota is on a March fiscal), GM’s shares were up 16% to Ford’s 4% and Toyota’s 11%. Some analysts might make the argument GM has catching up to do. Over the past year, GM’s shares underperformed those of the other two companies.
GM can make a modest case that it has outperformed most other large car companies with sales in the United States. Its market share rose from 16.9% in January of last year to 17.6% last month, during which it sold 202,786 cars and light trucks. It gained ground in the prized full-sized pickup market in January. Sales of its Chevy Silverado rose 24.8% to 36,106. Sales of Ford’s flagship F-Series rose 16.8% to 64,370. Ford argues that it cannot produce enough of its new aluminum F-Series. However, a sale is a sale. A new Silverado buyer is unlikely to buy a new Ford pickup later in the year.
GM also saw sales surge in its two largest divisions. Chevy sales rose 20% to 142,882 last month. GMC sales 28.6% rose to 35.671.
The bleeding GM has reported in Europe for years has slowed. Management claims operations in the region, which have been unprofitable for years, will make a profit within the next two. Its January sales in Europe rose faster than the overall market, but its market share remains very small. It also continues to be one of the largest car companies in China, the world’s largest market, vying for the top spot with Volkswagen. GM and its joint venture partners sold 3,539,970 cars and trucks there last year, up 12%.
Perhaps the most important factor in GM’s share improvement is that deaths and injuries related to the company’s recalls have cost the company much less than many expected. While death claims due to the flaws in the recalled cars have hit 56, GM still expects the costs of remuneration for deaths and injuries will be about $500 million. While the number is large, it will not cripple GM financially.
GM has started to come out of the woods of its recall problems, and its sales have not suffered because of them. If anything, they have improved.