Detroit's chieftains put differing spins on a dismal first quarter. Combined losses at GM, Ford, and Chrysler came to $1.9 billion, bringing the losses for the past three quarters to $6.1 billion. Chrysler's Lee Iacocca said his company lost $341 million in the first quarter, before an accounting change widened the loss to $598 million.
GM Chairman Robert Stempel, by contrast, opened his earnings report with news of a $1.2 billion loss, underscoring his call for more cost-cutting. But after onetime gains from the sale of its New York City building and an accounting change, GM trimmed its net loss to $377 million. It was Stempel's first result-enhancing accounting change. During then-Chairman Roger Smith's reign, bookkeeping changes boosted GM earnings in 1986, 1987, and 1988.