General Motors today announced its fourth quarter and calendar year 2008 financial results, confirming what everyone already knew – that the ailing carmaker is haemorrhaging cash by the billions and is unlikely to turn a profit anytime soon. Citing a dramatic deterioration in global economy, declining consumer confidence, and record lows for vehicle sales both in the U.S. and aboard, GM posted a net loss of $9.6 billion for the fourth quarter of 2008.

This brings the combined loss for all of 2008 to a staggering $30.9 billion, however, this figure shrinks to $16.8 billion if you ignore one-off and special items. This is in stark contrast to the relatively small adjusted net loss of $1.9 billion realized in 2007.

Total revenue for 2008 was $149 billion, compared with $180 billion in 2007. This was on sales of 8.35 million vehicles, down 11%, or 1.01 million vehicles, and was driven by an industry-wide contraction in global vehicle sales. According to GM’s own figures, global vehicle sales for the entire auto industry in 2008 were down 5%, or 3.6 million vehicles, versus 2007 levels.

“2008 was an extremely difficult year for the U.S. and global auto markets, especially the second half, ” GM CEO Rick Wagoner said in a statement.“ These conditions created a very challenging environment for GM and other automakers, and led us to take further aggressive and difficult measures to restructure our business.

It will be interesting to see if these latest results will have an impact on the final decision expected from the Obama administration at the end of March regarding the payback of bailout funds by Detroit’s carmakers.