General Motors is spinning up profits at levels unimagined five years ago, when the big automaker emerged from bankruptcy.

In the most recent third quarter, GM reported earnings of $3.1 billion (US) before interest and tax (EBIT). CEO Mary Barra says GM’s “EBIT-adjusted margin of 8.0 per cent was up 2.2 percentage points from a year ago.” For context, BMW’s EBIT-margin comes in just north of 11.0 per cent. Yes, GM is not as profitable as the world’s No. 1 premium carmaker, though as a mass-market car company, GM is more than holding its own.

Certainly sales remain strong, especially in North America. Sales last month were up 15.9 per cent and are “on track to establish a record calendar year.” Retail sales have increased for seven straight months, adds GM.

GM’s plans for the future were discussed in the company’s most recent earnings conference call. Here are some highlights from Mary Barra, GM CEO:

On pickups and SUVs (sport-utility vehicles): “GM’s share of the entire retail full-size pickup segment is approximately 40 per cent, up 2.0 percentage points from a year ago. And in the mid-size pickup segment, our new Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon pickups are already earning 40 per cent of the retail share.”

On hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and partnerships: “We also continue to have a very productive partnership with Honda, focused on fuel cells. We’re developing not only the next-generation hydrogen stack and storage system, but we’re looking for other opportunities and the fuel cell work should be in the 2020 timeframe is what we are targeting.”

On autonomous and self-driving vehicles: “We announced that we will implement a fleet of autonomous 2015 Chevrolet Volts at the Warren Tech Center next year. Not only will this accelerate our autonomous technical learnings, but it will also have us learn from an ecosystem perspective. And this builds on top of our previous autonomous announcements with the launching of Super Cruise and V2V that will both be on Cadillacs next year 2017 models.”

Barra added that GM is working on two paths to a future of autonomous vehicles, one evolutionary the second revolutionary.

Evolutionary: “I mean there’s the path that we’re on where if you look at especially a Cadillac today, there’s tremendous technology around it that is on the road to full autonomous with all the safety features and all the warning and the ability to have forward collision braking, et cetera. When you look at Super Cruise and the V2V communication, those will both be on 2017 Cadillacs, but they’ll be in the marketplace next year.

Revolutionary: “And then we have also announced a strong partnership and the work we continue to do with Mobileye. We were their first customer. We’re their largest customer. We continue to work closely with them. And we’re also exploring some other opportunities.”

On GM’s past penchant to over-promise and under-deliver: “We are working extremely hard to make sure we deliver on what we say we’re going to do. As we move forward, we intend to execute our plan with discipline, and that includes the capital allocation framework. And we are confident that we will drive profitable growth, strong returns on invested capital, and shareholder value.”

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