Profits at General Motors in the fourth-quarter rose 2 percent from a year ago, but the company fell way short of Wall Street expectations.
GM Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told CNBC on Thursday that higher tax rates contributed to about a third of the earnings miss, while restructuring costs made up the rest. In a “Squawk Box” interview, he still described the quarter as “very, very solid results.”
GM’s North American earnings were $913 million, or 57 cents per share. That compares with $892 million, or 54 cents per share, in the period a year earlier. Revenue rose 3 percent to $40.5 billion.
Excluding one-time items, GM made 67 cents per share. But analysts polled by FactSet expected 88 cents on revenue of $40.8 billion. Those items included $200 million in restructuring costs, in large part, related to the exit of the Chevrolet brand from Europe.
For the year, GM’s earnings fell 22 percent to $3.8 billion or $2.38 per share. Without one-time items it earned $3.18 per share.
GM also announced that 48,500 U.S. hourly workers will get up to $7,500 in profit-sharing checks.
In Europe, GM shrunk its loss by more than half to $345 million. Analysts had expected red ink of $399 million. Stevens said the automaker is fully committed to its mid-decade goal of breaking even there.
“We really got significant traction on the cost side of the business” in Europe, he added. “On the market … we grew share for Opel-Vauxhall for the first time in 14 years. We had improved revenue in the second half of the year.”
Stevens said a buildup in inventory can be partly blamed on bad weather curtailing sales. North American inventory has grown to 111 days, higher than many people were expecting.
(Read more: No reason to panic about January auto sales)
The GM CFO said he sees a selling rate of 16 million to 16.5 million units for the industry in 2014.