) -- For

General Motors

, the timing of its IPO could not be better.

The Nov. 18 offering will come as the U.S. automobile industry completes an arguably spectacular year, starting a comeback with the industry at a cyclical low. U.S. light vehicle sales are expected to total about 11.5 million this year, down from about 16 million annually before the economy slowed.

Obviously, the biggest beneficiary of the industry turnaround has been


(F) - Get Report

, now a poster child for

corporate turnarounds.

"We've made $7 billion this year ... in what would be historically a very depressed automotive market," said Executive Chairman Bill Ford, in an interview Wednesday on


. Ford had recorded profits of $6.4 billion through September.

Meanwhile, the

Detroit Free Press

reported Thursday that the combined profits of the Detroit Three automakers and publicly traded Detroit-area suppliers totals more than $11 billion so far this year. In November,

American Axle

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, all reported improved third-quarter earnings, the newspaper said.

To a point, GM benefits from a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats phenomenon. But there is more. On Wednesday, the company reported a

third-quarter profit of $2 billion, its third consecutive quarterly profit. Year-to-date, the company has earned $4.2 billion.

Not only did GM, thanks to massive financial and intellectual support from the government, emerge from bankruptcy as a profitable company, it also announced last week that it had become the first global automaker to sell 2 million vehicles in one year in China, the world's best auto market.

On the earnings conference call on Wednesday, CEO Dan Akerson touted GM's various successes, including retaining the bulk of its market share despite eliminating four brands. But he was also heavy on the disclaimers. "We know we have much more work to do," he said.

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

>To contact the writer of this article, click here:

Ted Reed