General Motors Co. posts first-quarter earnings of $865 million, or $1.66 per share, riding cost-cutting initiatives and the popularity of its newest products to a profit.

Including the sale of Saab Automobile AB to Netherlands-based niche-vehicle maker Spyker Cars N.V. earlier this year, GM’s profit swelled to $1.7 billion before interest and taxes on revenue of $31.5 billion.

The auto maker’s cash reserve, which it drained last year on the way to an historic bankruptcy, stands at $35.7 billion.

In the same period last year, GM lost $6 billion, or $9.78 per share.

“We’re pleased with our first-quarter performance, in particular achieving profitability,” GM Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell says in a statement.

“In North America, we are adding production to keep up with strong demand for new products in our four brands. We’re also steadily growing in emerging markets, keeping our costs under control, generating positive cash flow and maintaining a strong balance sheet. These are all important steps as we lay the foundation for a successful GM.”

GM North America earned $1.2 billion in the quarter before interest and taxes, bouncing back from a loss of $3.4 billion in fourth-quarter 2009. GM Europe, which continues its reorganization, lost $506 million.

The auto maker’s international operations, which include the booming markets of China, India and Brazil, earned $1.2 billion, up $500 million from fourth quarter.

GM worldwide sold 1.9 million cars in the quarter, up from 1.6 million year-ago. Its global market share held steady at 11.2%. And with four fewer brands in its most important home market, share stayed at 18.4%.

The financial report marks a milestone for GM in its bid to recover from last year’s federally backed bankruptcy and represents a good first step towards fulfilling Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre’s expectations to earn a profit in the full year and perhaps go public again.

If GM were to accomplish that, it would be its first year back in the black since 2004.