DETROIT—General Motors' first quarter net income plunged 87 percent, but earnings in North America rose even as the coronavirus pandemic drove production to a standstill.
The $294 million profit made GM the only one of the Detroit 3 to avoid a first quarter loss after the companies closed all of their U.S. plants in mid-March. GM said the crisis reduced its adjusted earnings by $1.4 billion before interest and taxes.
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles posted a first quarter net loss of $1.8 billion, and Ford Motor Co. lost $2 billion. Ford warned that its operating loss would exceed $5 billion in the second quarter.
GM said it aims to reopen most plants in the U.S. and Canada on May 18, mirroring a plan announced Tuesday by FCA. Despite the plants being closed for the last two weeks of the quarter, strong sales of pickups and big SUVs pushed North American profits to $2.2 billion, a 16 percent increase from the first quarter of 2019.
Global revenue fell 6.2 percent to $32.7 billion, and the company's profit margin decreased 2.8 points to 3.8 percent. Adjusted earnings before interest and taxes decreased 46 percent to $1.25 billion.
GM shares surged 7 percent to $22.75 in morning trading in New York.
CFO Dhivya Suryadevara said GM would be hit harder in the second quarter, but she declined to provide any projections for that period or the full year.
"We are not providing formal guidance at this time," she said on a conference call. "It's too early to tell until the economy opens up."
In a statement, GM said it intends to resume "the majority of manufacturing operations on May 18 in the U.S. and Canada under extensive safety measures." That plan, which is being developed in coordination with the UAW and government officials, would mean the company missed out on about two months' worth of production.