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GM LOSES $1.1 BILLION IN FIRST QUARTER SOME HOPE FOR "SLASH AND BURN" ACTIONS FROM CEO

DETROIT -- General Motors Corp., the world's largest automaker, said today it lost $1.1 billion in the first quarter, clobbered by rising health care costs, lukewarm response to some new models and special charges. Its U.S. car sales fell 4 percent.

The January-March result amounted to a loss of $1.95 per share, compared with earnings of $1.3 billion, or $2.25 a share, in the year-ago quarter, when the company benefited handsomely from its finance arm and improved business in Asia.

It was GM's steepest quarterly loss since the first quarter of 1992, when it reported a $21 billion loss primarily because of changes in accounting procedures for retiree health care costs.

The loss increases pressure on CEO Rick Wagoner to cut costs, boost U.S. sales and renegotiate labor contracts with his biggest union.

"The market is hoping he's going to get tough and be kind of a slash-and-burn guy right now," Sasha Kamper, who helps manage about $65 billion at Principal Global Advisors in Des Moines, Iowa, including GM debt, said before the loss was announced. "Wagoner has been viewed as more of a consensus-type manager."

GM said its revenue in the first quarter fell 4.3 percent to $45.8 billion from $47.8 billion a year ago.

Excluding special charges, GM said first-quarter earnings amounted to a loss of $839 million, or $1.48 a share, compared with net income of $1.2 billion, or $2.12 a share, in the first quarter of 2004.

GM sales in the United States, its largest and most competitive market, sank 4 percent for the first three months of 2005 from a year ago. For the same period, its U.S. market share slipped to 25.6 percent from roughly 27 percent, according research firm to Autodata Corp.