Upbeat GM Forecast Based on High-Margin Pickups, Not More Sales

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In an announcement Tuesday morning, General Motors Co. (NYSE: GM) forecast that full-year 2017 earnings per share (EPS) would reach the high end of the company’s previously stated range of $6.00 to $6.50. Analysts had forecast EPS of $6.30, so GM’s announcement pushed the stock up nearly 3% in early trading.

GM also said that it expects full-year 2018 results to be “largely in-line with expected 2017 results.” The company especially called out its new 2019 Chevy Silverado pickup, the company’s best-selling vehicle that is coming out in a redesigned version late this year. Like U.S.-based rivals Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. (NYSE: FCAU), GM’s full-size pickup sales drive corporate profits due mainly to their high margins.

Last year, Silverado sales rose 1.9% year over year to 585,864 units, well behind Ford’s F-Series sales of 896,764 units, a 9.3% increase over the 2016 total. Sales of FCA’s Ram pickups rose 2.0% to 556,790 units. Including the GMC Sierra pickups, GM sold a full-year total of nearly 950,000 full-size pickups.

Industry analysts at Cox Automotive estimate the average selling price on a full-size pickup was $47,000 last year. That’s more than $10,000 higher than the overall average price of a new vehicle in 2017.

GM President Dan Ammann said:

Reshaping the company over the last few years has allowed us to deploy resources and capital to higher-return opportunities including our next-generation trucks and establishing leadership in the future of mobility. The all-new full-size truck family that launches this year will generate very strong returns for years to come.

All full-size trucks from the Detroit Three are getting a redesign for the 2018 or 2019 model year. Ford’s F-Series is seeing changes this year, while new Ram and Chevy trucks get changes for the 2019 model year. Ford is also reintroducing its midsize Ranger pickup to the U.S. market for the 2019 model year, offering some competition to the Chevy Colorado/GMC Canyon midsize trucks from GM. Ram stopped selling its midsize Dakota several years ago to concentrate on the more popular and lucrative full-size pickups.

Even though estimates for total new vehicle sales for 2018 are running about 2% below the level reached in 2017, GM sees flat results this year due to benefits from strong sales in North America and China, improving sales in South America, growth in its other businesses including GM Financial, and from ongoing cost improvements.

GM stock traded up about 3% Tuesday morning, at $45.40 in a 52-week range of $31.92 to $46.76. The 12-month consensus price target on the stock is $47.22.