General Motors on Friday reported a much better-than-expected first-quarter net income driven by strong sales of its profitable large pickup trucks and crossovers in the United States, sending its shares up nearly 2 percent in premarket trading.

"We are executing our plan and it's delivering results," Chief Financial Officer Chuck Stevens told reporters at the company's headquarters in downtown Detroit. "This sets us up for another strong year."

US sales of Chevrolet trucks and crossovers rose 3.5 percent and 12 percent, respectively, during the quarter, while GMC truck and crossover sales jumped almost 10 percent. GM's pretax margin was 8.2 percent, an improvement of 1.1 percentage points.

Sales of its less profitable cars, however, were down in the United States from the first quarter of 2016. The results underscored a trend in the US market where consumers have increasingly shunned cars in favor of larger SUVs, crossovers, and trucks.

Vehicle sales rose slightly in Europe, where it has agreed to sell European Opel and Vauxhall operations to France's PSA Group.

GM reported a first-quarter net profit of $2.6 billion, or $1.70 per share, up 33 percent from $1.95 billion, or $1.24 per share, a year earlier. Analysts, on average, expected earnings per share of $1.48. The company forecast 2017 full-year adjusted earnings per share in a range from $6 to $6.50. Analysts expect earnings of $5.95 for the full year.

In premarket trading, GM shares were up 1.8 percent at $35.15.

Nick Carey wrote this article for Reuters.

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