Besides red ink, you know what was missing from GM's third-quarter results?
Smoke and mirrors.
For years, GM (and the two other U.S. automakers) tried to pretty up their earnings press releases by focusing on EBIT -- earnings before interest and taxes. And if that wasn't enough, EBITDA -- earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Hey, my family finances would look pretty dandy if I didn't have to budget for income taxes, mortgage payments or the need to eventually replace my car. But I'd be a fool to plan my budget that way.
And I didn't treat my son's college tuition as a one-time charge that happened four years in a row, the way automakers often treat the costs of closing plants because of lost market share. I saw it coming and started saving years ago.
The bottom line is the bottom line. Companies have to face that sooner or later, and for GM, 2009 -- bankruptcy year -- was later.
This time, there it was.
The first line of GM's earnings press release: "Revenue of $34.1 billion."
Second line: Net income, $1.96 billion.
Sure, GM gave its EBIT numbers. But why bother? After all, GM erased most of its debt in bankruptcy and got permission to keep tax credits from its red-ink years that will slash its taxes for years to come.
But I'm glad to see GM's not hiding its bottom line numbers on page four of the release.
It's about time.