General Motors on track but 'not out of the woods', while Chrysler trucks on

A dramatic improvement in General Motors' European operation was the only silver lining in the troubled car manufacturer's third quarter results, as global profits fell 53 per cent to $698m (£434m) from $1.5bn in the same period last year.

Losses in GM's European business, which includes Vauxhall and Opel, narrowed to $214m from $487m last year. The chief financial officer, Dan Ammann, yesterday declared the company "well on track" towards its goal of breaking even in Europe by the mid-decade, although he cautioned: "We're not out of the woods yet." Just two days ago the US Treasury announced taxpayers had so far lost $9.7bn on its bailout of GM, thanks to sales of stock at prices below the government's cost basis.

It was not all bad news for US's largest car maker, as rising vehicle prices and a new line of pick-up trucks and revamped models boosted earnings to $2.2 bn from $1.7 bn last year. But this was partly offset by the buyback of preferred stock which incurred large taxes, and a decline in the Asia markets outside China due to strong competition from Japan.

Meanwhile rival Chrysler, which recently announced plans to float on the US stock exchange, posted a 22 per cent rise in quarterly profits to $464m, thanks mainly to higher demand for trucks.

But the results were not all rosy. The delivery of a new jeep to US shores was delayed because of problems with its Italian-based parent company, Fiat. The Italian car-maker owns 58.5 per cent of Chrysler and wants to buy the rest, but has been unable to agree a price.

In America Chrysler managed just 7.7 per cent growth in sales compared to a 12 per cent increase across the industry as a whole.