GM sees 2018 earnings flat, with pickups picking up in 2019

DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co (NYSE:GM) said on Tuesday it expects earnings in 2018 to be largely flat compared with 2017, but that profits should pick up pace in 2019 as its revamped line of high-margin pickup trucks hits the U.S. market.

"GM had a very good 2017 as we continued to transform our company to be more focused, resilient and profitable," GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said in a statement. "We are positioned for another strong year in 2018 and an even better one in 2019."

GM and its Detroit rivals, Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F) and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, are bringing on new trucks at a time when overall U.S. new vehicle sales have been falling, but truck sales continue to grow as consumers abandon passenger cars in favor of pickups, SUVs and crossovers.

GM on Saturday fired a new round in the battle for profits from one of the U.S. auto industry's most lucrative segments when it showed a new generation of its Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck at the Detroit auto show.

The new Silverado, a highlight of the event, is the successor to GM's best-selling vehicle in North America. Sales of the current Silverado rose nearly 2 percent to 585,000 vehicles in 2017.

U.S. new vehicle sales fell 2 percent in 2017 after hitting a record high in 2016, and are expected to drop further in 2018 as interest rates rise and more late-model used cars come back to dealer lots to compete with new ones.

GM said it expects 2017 earnings per share to come in at the high end of its previously forecast range of $6 to $6.50. Analysts have predicted full-year 2017 earnings per share of $6.30.

The company said it expected earnings for 2018 to be roughly the same as in 2017. Analysts have predicted full-year 2018 earnings per share of $5.98.

(Reporting By Nick Carey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)