DETROIT. Mark Reuss, president of GM North America, had the pleasure last evening of addressing customers, dealers and other stakeholders attending the GM Fleet & Commercial Operations (FCO) 2011 product preview here just hours after the automaker reported earning $865 million in this year’s first quarter— marking its first profit in nearly three years.

That’s a monumental improvement from the same quarter a year ago when General Motors posted a loss of almost $6 billion, just before entering bankruptcy. Revenue for Q1 2010 totaled $31.5 billion, compared to only $22.4 billion a year ago.

The rebound was especially marked domestically. GM North America had adjusted earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) in Q1 2010 of $1.2 billion-- up from a loss of $3.4 billion in Q4 2009. GM Europe had a loss before interest and taxes of $0.5 billion, which was an improvement of $0.3 billion from the fourth quarter, while GM International Operations posted EBIT of $1.2 billion, up $0.5 billion from the fourth quarter.

“If the acronym coming out of GM a year ago was ‘SOS,’ twelve months later it is A-OK,” said Reuss. “GM is back on track to leadership— by creating value for the fleet and the retail customer alike. And the [market’s] perception of us is changing. We’ve paid off our government loans ahead of time and today we proved we can make money.”

However, Reuss said turning in that first profit in several years should be seen as just the beginning. “The Q1 announcement today is an accomplishment from a turnaround perspective, but this is nowhere near finished. We will celebrate on the run as we now must [work to] string together a series of profitable quarters [to ensure GM is seen as fully recovered].”

Reuss credited the first-quarter success to the automaker’s decision to drastically cut costs by paring its portfolio down to just four vehicle brands—Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac—and putting more marketing muscle behind each vehicle line to drive home product improvements to both consumer and commercial buyers.

“Great product makes great brands,” he stated. “We are seeing this with sales up 31% through April and those include ‘conquest’ sales—and these sales are being made based on the ‘wheels’ not [special financing] deals. Our quality is now on par with Toyota and Honda, and we’re seeing in improvement in residuals as well.”