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DETROIT -- General Motors' outlook was revised to positive from stable today by Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, which also raised Ford Motor Co. to investment grade as Detroit automakers reap profits not seen since the turn of the century.
GM's outlook is a sign the ratings company will probably boost the largest U.S. automaker to investment grade.
S&P increased Ford to BBB-, the last major ratings company to rate the carmaker investment grade.
"The outlook revision reflects the potential for an upgrade by the end of 2014," S&P said in a statement. "We will monitor GM's ability to maintain market share and profitability in North America."
In the first half of this year, the Detroit 3 made more than $6 billion before the industrywide sales rate breached 16 million units in August.
Industry sales totaled 1.5 million in August, the most in one month since May 2007.
GM, Ford and Chrysler Group combined to earn $13.5 billion last year, even as industry sales were 17 percent below the peak of 17.4 million set in 2000.
GM's corporate credit rating is BB+, the highest non-investment grade.
The company is introducing 18 new and refreshed vehicles this year in the United States, transforming its lineup into one of the newest in the industry from the one of the oldest.
The new products along with the U.S. government's intentions to exit its ownership of GM after a 2009 rescue have given investors increased confidence in the automaker.
Fitch Ratings last week revised its outlook on GM to positive and said further improvements by the company could lead to an upgrade within the next 24 months. Fitch also rates GM as BB+.
GM along with Ford fell to junk status in 2005 as part of a slide that eventually included GM's government-backed bankruptcy reorganization in 2009.
Ford avoided bankruptcy and was returned to investment grade by Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service last year.
"Ford's solid performance in North America continues to support good overall automotive cash flow and profitability, and we believe that the company's credit measures will approach our expectations for the 'BBB-' rating over the next year or so," S&P said in a statement. "We believe prospects for diversifying profits are improving due to recent sales gains in China and restructuring actions and retail market share expansion in Europe, which we expect will support eventual profitability."
Ford CFO Bob Shanks, in a statement, said the moves by S&P and other rating agencies to give Ford an investment-grade rating reflected "continued progress" in generating profitable growth at the company.
"Our plan is to maintain investment grade throughout an economic cycle," Shanks said.