DETROIT (AP) — General Motors earned its largest profit ever in 2011, two years after it nearly collapsed into financial ruin.
Strong sales in the U.S. and China helped the 103-year-old carmaker turn a profit of $7.6 billion, beating its old record of $6.7 billion in 1997 during the pickup truck and SUV boom.
GM is a vastly different company than it was in 1997. It's smaller, has less debt and its contract with the United Auto Workers is less costly. But it took a government bailout and a trip through bankruptcy protection in 2009 to cut its bloated costs. The company made record money last year even though U.S. auto sales were near historic lows at 12.8 million cars and trucks.
But problems surfaced in its latest results. GM lost $700 million before taxes in Europe, and its South American operations lost $100 million. Sales growth slowed in the U.S. in the fourth quarter, even as more Americans bought cars and trucks.
GM's stock price fell 43 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $24.50 in pre-market trading.
The U.S. government still owns 26.5 percent of the company and is waiting for the share price to rise before selling in an effort to recoup the bailout money.