General Motors has said it is directing limited supplies of semiconductors for use in the production of its most profitable vehicles and rethinking inventory among dealerships, as it struggles to respond to the global chip shortage affecting the car industry.
The effort meant the US carmaker was able to promise earnings before interest and tax of up to $11bn this year, the high end of its guidance, as it reported first-quarter figures that showed it weathering the shortages.
The company’s shares jumped 4 per cent on Wednesday after the forecast.
“This remains a challenging period for the company,” said GM chief executive Mary Barra. “Our supply chain and manufacturing teams are maximising production of high demand and capacity-constrained vehicles.
“We’re working with the supply base to get every chip we can,” she added.
The auto industry is grasping for semiconductors after electronic device makers snapped up chips at higher prices during the pandemic. Extreme weather in Texas then combined with a fire at a chip plant in Japan to further squeeze the world’s supply.
GM is attempting to divert chips to larger, more profitable vehicles such as pick-up trucks and SUVs, as well as electric vehicles as it continues ambitious electrification plans.
Barra said dealers were sending her photos of nearly empty lots and that the company wanted to offer more inventory to attract would-be customers who want to drive home in a new car or truck.
Still, the lower inventory has made for higher prices, and improved communication between dealers and GM has allowed the system to function, despite fewer cars on the lot.
The company is delivering more vehicles that are popular at a particular location and has launched tools so dealers can see which products are heading to them, allowing them to sell the vehicles before they arrive.
“We will run at a lower level of inventory [in the future],” Barra said. “I’m not going to say it’s going to be this low . . . but we can be much more efficient.”
GM on Wednesday reaffirmed its forecast from February for adjusted earnings before interest and taxes of between $10bn and $11bn in 2021 and $1bn to $2bn in adjusted free cash flow for the year. Executives said net income would fall between $6.8bn and $7.6bn.
It earned net income of $3bn in the first quarter, compared with $294m for the same period last year, as the pandemic hit. Revenue fell slightly from $32.7bn in the first three months of last year to $32.5bn for the same period this year.
The company posted diluted adjusted earnings per share of $2.25, above the $1.05 predicted by the 20 analysts polled by FactSet. Revenue was slightly below the expectation of $33bn.
GM idled plants in Kansas and Ontario, Canada, in February, and the company said on Monday they would not restart for another two months. A plant in Lansing, Michigan, was briefly restarted after being idled in March but will stop work again next week until late June. Its plant in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, has operated in fits and starts.