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By Joseph White
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Co Chief Executive Mary Barra said on Monday the automaker is "selling every truck we can build" and expanding North American truck-building capacity, even as U.S. gasoline prices hit record highs.
Barra made her comments during the automaker's annual shareholder meeting.
GM is pursuing a two-track strategy: Investing heavily in electric vehicles for North America, China and other markets, and funding those investments by trying to maximize profits from its North American combustion pickup truck and large SUV lineups.
Barra said GM is planning higher-priced versions of its Silverado large pickup and its large SUV models.
GM and its Detroit rivals Ford Motor Co and Stellantis NV rely heavily on sales of large pickup trucks and SUVs for global profits. High U.S. gasoline prices in the past have undermined consumer demand for relatively inefficient models.
Nominal pump prices hit an average of above $5 a gallon for the first time ever last week, the federal government said Friday.
GM is ramping up production of EVs. Barra said the Cadillac Lyriq electric sport utility is sold out through 2023.
In response to shareholder questions, Barra said the "clear priority" for using cash generated by its operations is to "accelerate our EV plans." She did not rule out share buybacks or other approaches to returning cash to shareholders.
GM still expects to increase production this year by 25-30%, despite continuing pressure on semiconductor supplies globally. Barra said GM is working to redesign vehicles to reduce the number of processors required by 95%.
Barra serves as GM's board chair and CEO. GM shareholders overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to separate those roles.
(Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Sandra Maler)