GM Back on Top Among the World's Automakers: The Ticker

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By Paula Dwyer

Attention taxpayers: Pat yourself on the back. General Motors Co., one-third of whose shares are owned by you, sold 9,025,942 vehicles last year, up 7.6 percent from 2010. The accomplishment is probably enough to restore GM's place as the king of automakers.

And it's only been two years since you bailed the company out -- to the tune of $50 billion.

GM beat out Volkswagen AG, which sold just over 8 million cars last year. Toyota Motor Corp., which had dethroned GM in 2008, hasn't yet reported yearly results but its production was severely crimped by the tsunami in Japan and flooding in Thailand.

More importantly, GM is profitable, unlike in years past when GM could boast that it was the world's largest automaker, but an unprofitable one. GM earned $6.17 billion in 2010 and $8.47 billion in the first nine months of last year.

The bragging rights have yet to translate into a stock price high enough for taxpayers to profit. GM's shares now trade around $25. The U.S. would have to sell its stake at an average of $53 a share to break even, Bloomberg News reports.

GM's Chevrolet brand drove the recovery, helped along by the popularity of the Cruze compact car. GM sold 2.5 million vehicles in China, about the same as in the U.S.

(Paula Dwyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Jan/19/2012 20:07 GMT