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General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

said strong U.S. sales enabled it to beat first-quarter estimates and raise its 2012 sales outlook, even as it lost money in Europe.

Excluding items, the company reported net income of $1.6 billion, or 93 cents a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had estimated 85 cents. Revenue rose 4% to $37.8 billion. Analysts had estimated $37.6 billion.

Including a one-time net loss from special items related to goodwill impairment, GM earned $1 billion. or 60 cents a share. In the same quarter a year earlier, including a net gain from special items of $1.5 billion, or 82 cents a share, GM earned $3.2 billion, or $1.77 a share.

"The U.S. economic recovery, record demand for GM vehicles in China and the global growth of the Chevrolet brand helped deliver solid earnings for General Motors," said CEO Dan Akerson, in a prepared statement. "New products are starting to make a difference in South America, but Europe remains a work in progress."

The automaker raised its outlook for 2012 U.S. light-vehicle sales to between 14 million and 14.5 million, up from 13.5 million to 14 million.

During the quarter, GM North America reported earnings before interest and taxes of $1.7 billion, an improvement of $400 million from the same quarter a year earlier. GM International Operations, in Asia, reported EBIT of $500 million, down from $$600 million. And GM South America reported EBIT of $100 million, flat compared with a year earlier.

GM Europe, however, reported an EBIT-adjusted loss of $300 million compared with break-even results a year earlier.

Looking ahead, GM North America anticipates second- and third-quarter results that will be comparable to first-quarter results, as it schedules downtime at factories that produce full-size trucks to prepare for production of 2013 models.

"We are aggressively eliminating complexity to reduce our costs, and at that same time, we are preparing for more than 20 major vehicle launches around the world in 2012 to drive revenue this year and farther into the future," said CFO Dan Ammann.

In premarket trading shortly after its earnings release, GM shares were rising 33 cents to $23.26.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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