General Motors Co's new executive team expects a slight uptick in pretax profits this year, but said margins likely will remain flat until 2015.
A new management team led by Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra and President Dan Ammann took the reins Wednesday, issuing a cautious outlook for the year ahead at a Deutsche Bank auto analyst conference.
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GM continues to cut its losses while boosting revenue in Europe, executives said, but the company expects growth this year in the United States and China to help fund about $1.1 billion in restructuring costs in other markets, including Europe and Australia.
China remains GM's strongest market. The automaker plans to open four additional plants there through 2015, increasing annual production capacity to 5 million vehicles, keeping neck and neck with chief rival Volkswagen AG .
In comparison, GM last year built 3.3 million vehicles in North America.
GM plans to launch 17 new or upgraded models this year with its joint-venture partners in China, as well as 15 new or upgraded vehicles in the U.S.
Ammann described 2014 as a "transition year" in Europe, where GM's Opel subsidiary will introduce a redesigned Corsa subcompact late in the year. A redesigned Astra compact is expected to follow in early 2015, along with a redesigned Insignia midsize sedan in late 2015.
Barra and Ammann are taking over a company that has undergone dramatic changes in recent months, including the exit of the U.S. government as a shareholder and the restoration of a dividend on common stock.
Ammann said GM expects pre-tax earnings in the first quarter to be lower than normal because of restructuring expenses and the launch of new U.S. models, including heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups and redesigned full-size SUVs at Chevy, GMC and Cadillac.
GM expects capital expenditure of $7.5 billion in 2014, and said it will spend about $3.9 billion to redeem its remaining Series A shares. In addition, the newly restored common dividend will return about $1.8 billion to shareholders.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Sofina Mirza-Reid)