General Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra speaks to the media during the GM Global Business Conference at the GM Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan, October 1, 2015. REUTERS/Rebecca CookThomson ReutersGeneral Motors Co. CEO Mary Barra speaks to the media during the GM Global Business Conference at the GM Milford Proving Grounds in Milford, Michigan

By Joseph White and Bernie Woodall

MILFORD, Mich. (Reuters) – General Motors Co on Thursday said it is targeting an increase in earnings per share to between $5 and $5.50 per share, from its goal of $4.50 per share this year.

The No. 1 U.S. automaker said it will increase its return to investors by stronger profit margins in China and North America, as well as operating efficiencies and share buybacks.

GM, in an annual presentation to investors in the Detroit suburb of Milford, Michigan, said its pre-tax global margins target is 9 percent to 10 percent by ‘early next decade.”

The Detroit-based automaker has had a difficult time convincing Wall Street of its value, as its shares have fallen below $30 recently, well short of its 2010 initial public offering of $33 per share.

The company will save about $5.5 billion in the next three years in efficiencies in manufacturing, administration and purchasing, which will pay for investments in technology and brand development.

The savings through 2018 will “more than offset” the technology and brand investments, GM said.

Some $2 billion of the savings will be on materials GM uses for its vehicles, said Mark Reuss, the company’s global product chief.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said the company will develop its autonomous vehicle program by having its employees at its Warren Technical Center in Warren, Michigan drive a fleet of plug-in hybrid 2017 Chevrolet Volts.

“We will redefine customers and their personal mobility,” said Barra.

Barra spoke with Reuters about this effort earlier this week.

She said this effort “starts with connectivity” that will be used to advance its autonomous vehicles. It will also include an electric bicycle that the company expects to be sold in densely populated global cities.

Barra said GM executives will update investors on its plans in China and India later on Thursday.

GM plans for 39 percent of its global sales to come from new or refreshed vehicles, up from 26 percent this year. It said that the share of those new vehicles will be 40 percent of its total sales in 2017, 31 percent in 2018, and 40 percent in both 2019 and 2020.

Barra said she has not had any further contact with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV. Several months ago, Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne sent Barra an email saying he wanted the two companies to merge, a notion Barra has consistently said she and the company’s board of directors are not interested in.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

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