General Motors Co is expected to report on Thursday first-quarter operating earnings more than double a year earlier, driven by a recovery in the U.S. market and strong sales in Asia.

GM's results will follow those of rival Ford Motor Co , which last week posted its best first-quarter profit in 13 years as higher prices for redesigned vehicles offset pressure from spiking commodity and oil prices.

Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S expect GM to report an operating profit of $1.72 billion, or 91 cents a share, on sales of $35.6 billion.

In the year-ago quarter, GM earned $742 million before a gain associated with the sale of it Saab brand, on sales of $31.5 billion.

Since last year, GM's operations have evolved as the company positions itself for growth after exiting bankruptcy. For example, in October 2010 it acquired the company that became GM Financial and in March sold its stake in parts supplier Delphi.

GM filed for bankruptcy in 2009 after being hit by the housing downturn and a spike in gas prices the year before that caused consumers to turn away from its high-profit trucks. In 2009, the company was saved by a $52 billion bailout funded by U.S. taxpayers.


Last November GM sold shares in an initial public offering. The U.S. government still owns 32 percent of its common stock.

GM's shares have recently stalled around the $33 IPO price due to investor concerns over rising gas prices and the higher costs for launching and selling new cars.

However, in addition to its success in China, GM's U.S. sales have not suffered as consumers have turned more to smaller cars and compact crossovers to offset gas prices now at around $4 a gallon.

Its April sales rose 26 percent and it retook the top spot it lost to Ford the prior month.

Investors expect GM to reiterate that the parts shortages caused by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami off Japan have not had a material effect on its earnings.

Indeed, in 2011 GM stands to gain 1.1 percentage points in market share and boost this year's profits before interest and taxes by $1 billion due to the struggles of Toyota Motor Corp <7203.T> and other Japanese automakers, UBS analyst Colin Langan said in a research note.

(Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Muralikumar Anantharaman)