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Which GM Business Segments Are Making The Most Money

The Interior of a GM Cadillac CTS. Source: Flickr Image.

General Motors (NYSE:GM) is an automobile company based in the US but has sales offices around the world, especially in China in which the company has major operations. GM reported its financial results according to the following 3 main business segments which are Automotive, Cruise and GM Financial based on the Q4 2019 annual filing:

  • Automotive
    • GM North America (GMNA)
    • GM International (GMI)
    • Corporate
  • Cruise
  • GM Financial

Under the Automotive business segment, it’s further divided into smaller segments such as GMNA, GMI and GM Corporate which are shown in the list above.

In this article, we will briefly talk about each GM’s business segment in terms of what it does and its respective revenue as well as profitability.

Take note that GM Corporate sales in 2019 was negligible and is thus, not included in the following discussion.

GM North America (GMNA)

GMNA is responsible for meeting the demands of customers in North America with vehicles developed, manufactured, and/or marketed under brand names such as Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC.

According to the Q4 2019 annual filing, GMNA was the largest revenue contributor to the company in 2019, with revenue totaling as much as $106.4 billion out of 3.2 millions of vehicles delivered.

GMNA has been GM’s largest and most important business unit all these years. In 2019, the business segment’s revenue contribution made up nearly 80% of the company’s total net sales. While the North American region may have been GM’s biggest market for its automobile products, both sales revenue and vehicle deliveries in 2019 have actually declined from $113.8 billion and 3.6 millions recorded in 2018, representing a year on year decline of 6.5% and 9.6% respectively for both revenue and vehicle deliveries.

Moreover, among all the business segments, GMNA also contributed the biggest profit to GM, generating an adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT-adjusted) of $8.2 billion in 2019 and having an adjusted margin (EBIT-adjusted margin) of 7.7% during the same year. In line with the revenue decline in 2019, the adjusted EBIT also declined year on year from 2018 at nearly 24% in which as much as $10.8 billion of profit was made in the same year.

GM International (GMI)

On the other hand, GMI is responsible for meeting the demands of customers outside of North America with vehicles developed, manufactured and/or marketed under the brand names such as Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Holden.

In addition, GM has invested a substantial amount of equity stakes in companies through join ventures in China, with vehicles developed, manufactured and/or marketed under the brands such as Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Jiefang and Wuling.

As of Dec 31st, 2019, GM’s investment in China joint ventures totaled as much as $7 billion. However, the sales generated from China joint ventures did not contribute to GM’s revenue as GM does not hold more than 50% of ownership in these companies. Instead, GM recognized the contributions from China join ventures as equity income. In 2019, an equity income of $1.1 billion from China joint ventures was added to GM’s earnings before interest and tax (EBIT).

Nevertheless, GMI’s revenue contribution still totaled as much as $16 billion with 995,000 vehicles delivered in 2019, making up nearly 12% of the company’s entire sales. These figures were actually lower compared to the revenue of $19 billion and vehicle deliveries of 1.15 million reported in 2018, representing a year on year decline of 16% and 13.6% respectively.

In terms of profitability, GMI generated an adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT-adjusted) of -$202 million. In other words, GM suffered a loss of $202 million in its international operation in 2019. Again, the adjusted EBIT was much higher back in 2018 in which GM made a profit of $423 million instead of a loss.

To learn more about equity income such as the one recognized by GM from its China joint ventures, you can visit Equity Method Accounting.


Cruise is a new reportable segment since 2019. Prior to 2019, Cruise was referred to as GM Cruise and was part of the Automotive business segment. However, this business unit has since been separated out in 2019 from Automotive due to the growing importance of autonomous vehicle and self-driving technology. In general, Cruise is responsible for the development and commercialization of autonomous vehicle and self-driving technology.

According to the Q4 2019 annual filing, Cruise generated about $100 millions of revenue in 2019. However, its respective adjusted EBIT was a massive loss of $1 billion. Compared this figure to 2018 in which $728 millions of loss was reported, Cruise has suffered an even bigger loss in 2019.

According to GM, the reason for the massive loss was primarily due to the increased in engineering costs as the company progresses towards the commercialization of automotive vehicles.

Despite having massive losses all these years, it’s not all doom and gloom. The good news is that Cruise has received multiple capital injections between 2018 and 2019 which totaled more than $3 billion from different parties such as The Vision Fund, Honda and GM itself.

So far, GM has been the biggest investor in Cruise, investing close to $1.8 billion in which a majority has been in Cruise’s preferred shares. For instance, the $1.2 billion received by Cruise Holdings in 2019 in exchange for its Class F preferred shares came from parties such as The Vision Fund, GM and other investors. Of this $1.2 billion of funds, GM contributed more than half of the amount at $687 million.

Prior to 2019, GM investment in Cruise totaled $1.1 billion in 2018 in addition to a $900 million as well as a $750 million investment that came from The Vision Fund and Honda respectively.

GM Financial

According to the Q4 2019 annual filing, GM Financial is GM’s global captive automotive finance company and global provider of automotive finance solutions. It conducts business in North America, South America, and through joint ventures in Asia Pacific.

The primary function of GM Financial is to provide retail loans and lease lending across all credit spectrum in addition to offering commercial lending products to dealers who require working capitals to finance new stores opening or improvement to dealership facilities as well as loans to purchase dealership real estate. Other than dealer loans, GM Financial also offers a sub-prime lending program in North America to customers with a FICO score or its equivalent of less than 620.

In contrast to the declining revenue seen across all Automotive segments, GM Financial posted a total revenue of $14.5 billion in 2019 which represents a year over year increase of 4% compared to 2018. Moreover, GM Financial was the third largest revenue generator after GMNA and GMI at roughly 11% of total revenue in 2019.

While GM Financial may not be the largest profit generator for GM at an adjusted EBIT of only $2.1 billion in 2019, it has been one of the most profitable business segment with an adjusted EBIT margin of nearly 15% compared to GMNA and GMI reported EBIT-adjusted margin of only 7.7% and -1.3% respectively.


In short, GMNA is GM’s largest revenue generator at close to 80% total revenue in 2019. While the North American region may represent GM’s largest market for its vehicles, its revenue has been declining year on year at 6.5% for the past 2 years between 2018 and 2019. As of Q4 2019, the total net sales and revenue for GMNA was $106.4 billion for the entire 2019, generating an adjusted EBIT of $8.2 billion at 7.7% margin.

The second largest business segment goes to GMI with a total net sales and revenue of $16.1 billion in 2019. While China has been the largest market under GMI, its revenue contribution does not go directly to GM’s top line. Instead, the sales from China is recognized as equity income which is added to the company EBIT in the income statements. As of 4Q 2019, GMI reported an EBIT-adjusted margin of -1.3% due to a loss of $202 million in 2019.

GM Financial is the third largest business segment based on the Q4 2019 annual filing, contributing $14.6 billion of revenue to GM’s total net sales and revenue. In terms of profitability, GM Financial has the highest EBIT-adjusted margin of close to 15%, making it the most profitable business segment in the company.

Cruise is a new business segment and has made only $100 million in revenue in 2019. While Cruise may represent GM’s smallest business unit in terms of sales, its loss has been the largest in 2019 at $1 billion of EBIT-adjusted loss. Ever since the inception of Cruise, this business segment has received multiple investments totaled more than $3 billion between 2018 and 2019, with GM itself as the largest investors at $1.8 billion of investment so far.

References and Credits

1. All financial figures in this page were obtained from GM quarterly and annual reports through its Investor Relation website: General Motor Investor Relations.

2. Featured images in this article are used under creative commons license and sourced from the following websites: GmanViz and Alan Gore.


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