Portugal Colonial - General Motors sees solid 2022 on strong demand, improving chip supply

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General Motors sees solid 2022 on strong demand, improving chip supply
General Motors sees solid 2022 on strong demand, improving chip supply

General Motors sees solid 2022 on strong demand, improving chip supply

Despite a hit from the semiconductor crunch in the fourth quarter, General Motors on Tuesday projected a highly profitable 2022 based on strong consumer demand in the face of rising inflation.

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Profits fell in the final quarter of 2021 as GM saw global car sales sink. But the big US automaker still managed to notch a record $10 billion in annual profits as tight retail inventories lifted prices.

GM signaled it expects comparable profits in 2022 in spite of cost pressures in commodities, freight services and labor.

Executives cited robust consumer hunger for new vehicles, with pent-up demand for "several million" vehicles driving the market, according to Chief Executive Mary Barra.

"We expect to see strong pricing and that will continue in 2022," she said in a conference call with reporters.

"We continue to have low inventory so those fundamentals are even more important than overall inflation from a vehicle price outlook," Barra said.

Barra also characterized the semiconductor supply outlook as gradually improving, though she added the caveat that additional Covid-19 outbreaks or another disruption also looms as a possibility.

"This is our best estimate," Barra said on a conference call with analysts. "This is what we think we're going to be able to do."

In light of this improvement in semiconductors, GM projected a 25-30 percent increase in auto production in 2022.

- Higher costs -

The big US automaker earned a profit of $1.7 billion for the quarter ending December 31, down 38.7 percent from the final three months of 2020 as revenues dropped 10.5 percent to $33.6 billion.

But for the full year, GM reported $10 billion in profits, up 55.9 percent from the 2020 level.

In the face of the chip shortage, GM has focused production on its most profitable vehicles, such as full-size trucks and sport-utility vehicles.

GM projected 2022 earnings of between $9.4 billion and $10.8 billion.

That outlook is in spite of $2.5 billion in increased commodity and logistics costs in 2022.

Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said the range in GM's profit forecast reflects possible fluctuation due to shifting interest rates or commodity costs.

But Jacobson described current dynamics as a "very very strong business environment."

- 'Hello car' -

Barra also cited recent progress on GM's autonomous technology and its build-out of electric vehicle capacity following a series of major product launches and factory announcements.

On Tuesday, GM's autonomous venture Cruise opened up a "sign up page" for consumers to take a driverless ride.

A video on Cruise's website showed several riders in San Francisco gawking over the technology as they rode in a vehicle. One of the clips showed a couple greeting the self-steering vehicle as they enter.

"Hello car," the man says.

"This feels weird," says another.

Barra was effusive, likening her experience to "riding with an experienced driver who's paying attention all the time."

But as a result of these multi-billion dollar investments, GM has opted against restoring the investor dividend, she said.

Shares rose 1.1 percent to $54.68 in after-hours trading.