Record losses hit GM, Ford $500 million loss in quarter seen for Chrysler.

May 01, 1991|By Knight-Ridder

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have reported record losses for the first quarter, and Chrysler Corp. was expected to add a $500 million loss to the pot today.

With a $2.5 billion thud -- the largest ever for the first three months of a year -- analysts say the Big Three automakers have hit bottom.

Both Ford and GM "will be back in the black by the fourth quarter," said John Kirnan, an auto industry analyst for Kidder Peabody & Co., a Wall Street brokerage. "People sense that this is as bad as it gets."

Smaller losses are expected to continue, based on automakers' projections of how many cars and trucks they will make and sell in the April-June period. Vehicle sales won't really rally until the economy and unemployment improve and interest rates drop further.

Ford Vice President David McCammon said yesterday that it was unlikely Ford would make money in the second quarter, but "the first quarter should be the low point for the year." GM offered no projection, but most analysts don't expect it to make money, either.

In a statement yesterday, GM chairman Robert Stempel said GM "faces the toughest and most competitive North American automotive market in the corporation's history."

GM's bottom-line loss was held to $461 million in the quarter because of two accounting changes. The loss on its business operations was $1.2 billion. GM earned $710 million for the same period last year.

Ford lost $884 million, its largest quarterly loss ever. The previous record was $595 million in the third quarter of 1980.

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