Of Big 3, Only Chrysler Expecting Profit : Autos: GM and Ford are likely to have red ink in the third quarter, analysts said.

From Reuters

Chrysler Corp, which last year was struggling to sell its stock at $10 a share, is expected to be the only Big Three car maker to report a profit in the third quarter.

Analysts expect Chrysler to report a profit of about $103 million, contrasted with a loss of $82 million in the same period last year. But they say Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., which are suffering from lethargic sales on both sides of the Atlantic, will drive into the red.

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The turnaround has helped Chrysler's stock. It has more than doubled since the company raised more than $350 million in an offering last October. It was up 37.5 cents to $22.625 Thursday.

GM is expected to lose about $935 million in the period, compared to a loss of $1.14 billion in the year-ago period.

No. 2 Ford is expected to lose about $146 million in the quarter, better than the $574-million shortfall in the year-ago period but below the $502 million it earned in the second quarter of this year.

Industry analysts say the yearlong slowdown in European car sales hurt both GM and Ford, but did not have a substantial effect on Chrysler because it has only a modest presence overseas.

Chrysler's minivans and trucks have kept its engines running on all cylinders even as car sales have slipped into low gear.

"Chrysler's mix is more heavily slanted toward trucks than the other two, and trucks are selling a lot better than cars," said Jay Leopold, analyst at Legg, Mason, Wood Walker.

So far this year, U.S. light truck sales, including minivans--a market that Chrysler dominates--are up 15% while domestic car sales are up a scant 0.08%.

Because several of Chrysler's new products, such as the Jeep Grand Cherokee, do not carry rebates, profit is better.

Industry analysts estimate that Chrysler makes a profit of $7,500 on every Jeep Grand Cherokee it sells. So far, the sport utility vehicles have been selling almost as quickly as the company can build them.

While Chrysler shares have gained, GM's have tumbled almost $9 since it went to the market to peddle 55 million shares at $39 each in May. Ford's stock has skidded about $10 a share since June.

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Analysts say investors' change of heart on GM and Ford shares reflects the slowdown in European sales, coupled with a slower than expected recovery in North America.

"I think for now there is a perception growing that Europe is weak across the board," said Salomon Bros. automotive analyst Jack Kirnan. "There's a tendency to want to avoid companies that have larger European exposure."

Analysts have cautioned that GM's losses could grow if the United Auto Workers union follows through on its threat to call a strike at a key parts plant in Anderson, Ind., next week.

The plant, which employs 3,400 hourly workers, supplies exterior lighting equipment to virtually all of GM's North American assembly plants.

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