On the same day General Motors receives another historic product endorsement, the auto maker reports a $1.2 billion second-quarter profit on better-then-expected results in Europe and executives offer an optimistic picture of the company’s restructuring.

“GM is inherently a stronger company than it was even a year ago, both operationally and on the showroom floor,” Chairman and CEO Dan Akerson says.

The auto maker today learns the redesigned-for-’14 Chevrolet Impala large sedan scored best-in-segment results by the widely read Consumer Reports magazine, marking the first time in more than 20 years an entry from the Detroit Three earned the nod.

Earlier in the quarter, GM scored more top-rated vehicles in the important J.D. Power & Associates initial quality study than any other U.S. auto maker, another first for GM in decades.

Global product launches have returned record sales for the Chevrolet brand, and Akerson earlier reported the important launch of the redesigned-for-’14 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra large pickup trucks in the U.S. likely would go down as GM’s smoothest introductions in recent history.

Sales at GM’s profitable Cadillac brand also are accelerating on the strength of new products, up 33% in the U.S. Plans to grow its presence in China through new entries and localized production took root in the quarter.

Akerson makes note of GM’s closing on the acquisition of Ally Financial’s European operations in the quarter, which gives the auto maker new consumer-lending options in the region. He also cites the creation of a new global business services group charged with streamlining and slashing costs in back-office operations such as human resources, facilities management, real estate and indirect purchasing.

The May-June quarter could go down in history as a key turning point in GM’s restructuring from its 2009 bankruptcy, Akerson suggests.

“Strengthening our brands, improving quality and streamlining the organization is starting to pay off,” he says. “Not only are GM’s products the best in memory, our business is more resilient in the face of economic headwinds.

“GM’s short-term challenges are no longer the tail wagging the dog,” Akerson adds.

The auto maker’s European operations served as a proof point in the quarter. Although the longtime money-losing unit posted a $110 million loss in the period, it represented a $284 million improvement over year-ago, despite a 5.5% reduction in revenue to $5.2 billion from $5.5 billion.

Sales in the economically depressed region fell 4.8% to 276,000 units from 290,000 in like-2012, and market share slipped to 8.5% from 8.8%.

“The (Europe) result is day-to-day blocking and tackling,” GM Chief Financial Officer Dan Ammann tells Wall Street analysts in a conference call earlier today. “We still have a long ways to go, but we’re driving hard to deliver year-over-year improvements.”

Ammann cautions the better-than-expected result does not advance the auto maker’s timetable for its European turnaround, reiterating expectations for breakeven by 2015. And while he confirms plans for annual improvement in the unit’s finances compared with 2012, he also warns of a historically softer performance in this year’s second half.

GM North America reported a slight Q2 profit improvement to $1.98 billion from $1.89 billion year-ago. Revenue in the auto maker’s home region grew 8.8% to $23.5 billion from $21.6 billion, while sales increased 6.4% to 809,000 units from 760,000. Market share slipped to 17.3% from 17.4%.

GM’s previously red-hot international operations cooled in the quarter, with profits tumbling to $228 million from $627 million year-ago. Revenue slid 10.2% to $5.3 billion from $5.9 billion. Sales declined 9.2% to 268,000 units from 295,000, but market share inched up to 9.3% from 9.2%.

Ammann cites the decrease in GMIO sales volumes, especially in India and Russia, as well as unfavorable currency exchange rates in China, although GM’s business in the world’s No.1 vehicle market “continues to be strong.”

Competitive pressure from Japanese auto makers using improved exchange rates to their advantage in Southeast Asia and Australia also affected GMIO’s performance, as did a handful of warranty and recall issues in India.

“We’ll continue to have some impact from all of those things, probably rolling into Q3, but as we exit the year we do have some important launches ahead of us,” Ammann says. “We hope the warranty/recall items will fall away, and we’ll need to address whatever those competitive dynamics from a currency perspective are as we go.”

GM South America saw its profit soar to $54 million from $16 million in like-2012 as revenue increased 4.9% to $4.3 billion from $4.1 billion. Sales improved 4.9% to 278,000 units from 265,000 but share finished the quarter at 17.1% vs. 18.1%.

Ammann says political unrest in Venezuela interrupted GM operations multiple times in the quarter, while the large volume of components the auto maker ships into the region for localized assembly of vehicles were made more costly by currency fluctuations.

The softening economy in Brazil also affected GMSA performance, he adds, although the social unrest in the country has not yet spilled over into showrooms.

Overall, GM’s revenue for the quarter grew 3.9% to $39.1 billion from $37.13 billion. Worldwide share declined to 11.4% from 11.5% year-ago.

GM shareholders earned $0.75 per share, compared with $0.90 per share in the same period last year. The auto maker points to a $200 million charge related to the purchase of shares in GM Korea as one earnings headwind in the quarter.

GM finished the second quarter with $24.2 billion in cash and marketable securities, roughly even with the first quarter, and $34.8 billion in total liquidity.

jamend@wardsauto.com