General Motors reported a staggering net loss of $38.7 billion last year, and followed it up with a $3.3 billion loss in the first quarter of this year and a $15.5 billion loss in the second. Despite the dire situation senior executives are hopeful that the company can return to profitability by the end of this decade.

Their reasoning is that much of the previous losses are due to special one-off transactions, and that the company is now undergoing a massive restructuring program.

While not going so far as to make a firm prediction on a return to profitability, Lutz said that if all goes to plan GM could start making money again in 2010. "At this point the future is so cloudy in terms of the development of the market, when it's going to pick up again," he explained to reporters from the Associated Press.

In the past 12 months, GM has closed a handful of factories, laid off thousands of workers, overhauled much of its product lineup, and started development of a new generation of global vehicles and efficient powertains. The first of these have already been seen with the reveal of the new Chevrolet Cruze and Family Zero engine range.

If GM can continue to trim its structural costs, and if sales volumes pick up, Lutz said, the company's fortunes could change and its model lines, including small cars, could start making money very quickly.

Standing in GM’s way is pressure on fuel prices and the stagnant U.S. economy. Lutz said that GM is still losing money on most of its model lines, and earning profits on small vehicles – one of the fastest growing segments – will still be very hard to achieve. Understandably, analysts are less confident and are predicting that the Detroit 3 as a whole will continue to lose at least $5.6 billion annually for several more years.

The loss is based on a comparison with 2004, when pickups and SUVs made up almost 60% of U.S. vehicle sales. So far this year, the figure is however just under 50%, but analysts are predicting it to drop further by the end of the year, making it even harder for companies like GM to recover.