The world's largest auto maker, General Motors (NYSE:GM), reported first-quarter earnings today that trounced Wall Street's predictions. In the prior year's quarter, the Detroit car giant earned $1.84 a share (excluding the $0.90 profit from the sale of GM Defense, particularly its Stryker operation, to General Dynamics (NYSE:GD)). Wall Street was looking for GM to post lower earnings this year, expecting only $1.79 -- but GM stunned the critics with a walloping $2.25 in per-share diluted GAAP earnings -- a 22% increase -- on revenue that was up a scant 3%.

In large part, GM can thank its General Motors Acceptance Corp. financing division for today's results. The Fed's continued low interest rates gave that division the ability to continue offering sales incentives to car buyers of as low as 0%. But the non-financing segment of the business turned in a pretty impressive performance as well, with global automotive earnings growing 12%.

Still, success is not guaranteed for GM. To help temper the market's expectations for coming quarters, CEO Rick Wagoner set up what seems to be, in this Fool's humble opinion, a straw man in forecasting the company's future performance. He noted that "the effects of the artificially weakened Japanese yen" posed problems for the company's ability to compete worldwide -- this, despite recent analyst musings that the yen could soon break the 100:1 yen-to-dollar exchange rate not seen since 1995.

That prospect bodes very well for GM and for investors willing to take a gamble on the company's recovery. After all, GM saw its strongest profit growth over the past 12 months in the "Asia Pacific" region. Profits there more than tripled as GM's market share increased by nearly 10%, from 4.3% to 4.7%, with especially good results coming in from China and India. Such strong gains for GM in Toyota's (NYSE:TM), Honda's (NYSE:HMC), and Nissan's (NASDAQ:NSANY) collective back yard already hint that the weakening U.S. dollar and GM's improved execution are combining to help pull the company out of its slump. And if the Japanese titans' products become yet more expensive due to the strengthening yen, GM's prospects in the region will only improve.

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Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.