DETROIT -- Surprise! The top-performing stock among automakers in the U.S. this quarter is General Motors.
The company, which endured management upheaval during the third quarter and announced that it would lose substantial cash in Europe, saw its shares rise 15 percent from July through the end of September. The gain was the best since the first quarter of this year, when the stock climbed about 23 percent. GM posted strong profits in that period.
GM's stock outperformed all other major automakers in the U.S. including rival Ford Motor Co., which saw its shares rise 3 percent.
General Motors Co.'s gains for the quarter surprised industry watchers, given publicity about management changes and the continued sales slump in Europe that has hit nearly every major automaker. During the quarter, GM ousted its marketing chief and the head of European operations. It also lost several other key executives including its top electric-car engineer and head designer in Europe.
Investors now realize that most of the departures signal that GM is making necessary changes. That's better than sweeping management problems under the rug like it did in the past, said Bill Selesky, an industry analyst for Argus Research. The changes, he said, have set GM apart from its peers this quarter.
"I think people are now looking at the company and saying they're more proactive," Selesky said. "They're not the same company my father used to know."
For the quarter, GM shares gained $3.05, from $19.70 on July 2 to $22.75 on Friday.
U.S. shares of Japanese rivals Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co.'s each lost ground during the quarter, with Toyota down 2.5 percent, Honda off 11 percent, and Nissan down 9 percent.
GM got on many portfolio managers' buy lists during the quarter because it hit a 52-week low of $18.72 in July, and many thought they were buying at the bottom, said Joe Phillippi, president of New Jersey-based AutoTrends Consulting LLC. "You go for the bounce of the cycle," he said.